WASHINGTON — The United States has deployed combat unmanned aerial vehicles in Iraq.
The Defense Department said the U.S. military has used both manned and unmanned aircraft amid the war against Al Qaida’s Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. /DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo
The Pentagon said some of the unidentified UAVs were armed to protect U.S. special operations forces in the field.
“The reason that some of those aircraft are armed is primarily for force protection reasons now that we have introduced into the country some military advisers whose objective will be to operate outside the confines of the [U.S.] embassy,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
A key fleet of U.S. reconnaissance planes used to detect enemy aircraft in hostile settings will to be cut by 25 percent under President Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget, according to multiple sources familiar with the budget proposal.
A fleet of 31 AWACs, or Airborne Warning and Control System planes, will be reduced to 24 by 2015 under Obama’s budget proposal.
The situation has prompted concern in defense circles and elsewhere, where sources have pointed out that AWACS are currently deployed in Poland and Romania in order to help monitor the standoff in Ukraine.
AWACS are a highly advanced type of reconnaissance craft able to monitor enemy movements in the sky and ground from great distances. Each AWAC unit costs $270 million, according to the Air Force.
Today the US launched the second drone strike in Yemen in three days. The strike, which took place in northern Yemen, killed a jihadist who fought in Iraq.
The remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired two missiles at a vehicle as it traveled in the Khalka area of Al Jawf province province. Four “militants,” including a local commander known as Ali Juraym, were killed in the strike.
Yemeni news sources claim that Ali Juraym, whose full name is Ali Saleh Juraym Al Olyan, was an al Qaeda commander known to have returned from Iraq. Al Olyan was reportedly from the Al Sayda tribe hailing from the Al Jawf province in northern Yemen. Yemeni tribal sources said that they could not identify the other AQAP fighters who were killed with Al Olyan due to the severity of their injuries. They also confirmed that al Qaeda operatives arrived at the scene shortly after the drone strike to collect the militants’ remains.