To replace drone strikes, US to give Yemen Hellfire-armed crop dusters


Locutus
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Looking to get out of the business of secret drone strikes against Al Qaeda members and others in Yemen, the US is preparing to give the Yemeni Air Force its own, somewhat lower-tech equivalent of the Predator and Reaper for carrying out “targeted killing” operations. According to documents obtained by Buzzfeed’s Aram Roston (external - login to view), the US will provide a squadron of 10 aircraft originally designed as crop dusters, which are now equipped for a wholly different sort of reaping.

The two aircraft manufacturers in contention for the Yemen Precision Strike Program are Air Tractor (external - login to view) and Thrush Aircraft (external - login to view). The specs of the program call for two-crew member airplanes that are easy enough to fly that the Yemeni Air Force can quickly crew them up. The planes must also be able to carry surveillance and targeting sensors, ballistic armor to protect the crew from ground fire, and a load of weapons on six “hardpoints” on the wings.

While weapons are not part of the first round of deliveries, the ability to incorporate them is. The required weapons capabilities include the ability to launch or drop Hellfire missiles and laser-guided bombs. They should also be “capable of carrying/employing [a] .50 cal gun,” according to a US Central Command memo on the program published by Buzzfeed (external - login to view).

While Yemenis will fly the planes, Buzzfeed reports that an anonymous source said they will be paired with US Air Force personnel, either as pilots or weapons operators. The Air Force crew members will likely be from the Sixth Special Operations Squadron (external - login to view), a unit that specializes in training and “combat aviation advisory” operations.


To replace drone strikes, US to give Yemen Hellfire-armed crop dusters | Ars Technica (external - login to view)
 
B00Mer
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