All about US’s secret ‘Hellfire’ missile used in Afghanistan airstrikes against ISIS-K
It has been discovered that the United States used a special missile in its drone strikes in Afghanistan that does not explode but releases knife-like blades, hitting the targets with precision to avoid collateral damage to civilians, according to reports.
The US drone strikes were carried out using the Hellfire missile.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, R9-X variant of the missile was fired from a MQ-9 Reaper drone.
The MQ-9 Reaper, also called Predator drone, can detect targets using its inbuilt sensors and radars. It has an endurance of more than 27 hours and can carry payloads up to nearly 1700 kg with a range of 6,000 nautical miles and a flying capacity of up to 50,000 feet.
MQ-9 Reaper drones can carry deadly Hellfire missiles and laser-guided bombs, making them a potent weapon.
The Predator armed drones have been used by the US forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria in the past.
This is not the first time that the R9-X variant of the Hellfire missile has been used. It was deployed last year in August when US forces targeted an Al Qaida-linked trainer in Syria. According to reports, the US had used the same weapon in 2019 and 2017.
The US forces have carried out two back-to-back drone strikes after the suicide bombings outside the Hamid Karzai airport in Kabul that killed 13 US soldiers and over a hundred civilians.
The US has said they targeted the Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) — ISIS-Khorasan.
There are various variants of the Hellfire missile. The R9-X is also called the ‘Ninja’ bomb and weighs about 45 kg. The missile can also be launched from helicopters, aircraft and Humvees used by the US forces for quick mobilisation of ground troops.
The range of these missiles varies from 500 metres to 11 km, depending on the variant being used.
Drone strikes took a big jump during former President Barack Obama’s tenure. The US policy of excessive use of drones has often triggered a controversy alleging civilian casualties.
Though the US had been using drones since 2001 in Afghanistan, they, initially, didn’t prove to be as successful.
India has also shown interest in arming its forces with the armed drones used by the US forces. A $3 billion-deal for the purchase of 30 armed drones manufactured by US company General Atomics is likely soon. If the deal goes through, the Army, Navy and Air Force will get 10 such combat drones each.
Drone attacks can be carried out by dropping bombs, firing missiles or crashing the armed UAV into the target. The stealth features allow the drones to go undetected, making deep penetrations.
The US forces have also adopted the strategy of drone warfare to ensure there are fewer casualties. More recently, Azerbaijan used armed drones against Armenia last year.
Not just military targets, but drones could pose a big threat to critical civilian infrastructure like dams, power plants and bridges in time to come.
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