US deploying armed drones to Libya
The United States is deploying armed unmanned aerial vehicles into Libya to step up attacks on leader Moamer Gaddafi's forces, the Pentagon said Wednesday, dpa reported.
The vice chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, General James Cartwright, told reporters the Predator drones will bring an added capability for more precisely targeting Gaddafi's ground forces. He said that has grown more difficult for traditional aircraft as the battle lines in places like Misurata have become more difficult to detect.
Two Predators will be operational for periods of 24 hours, Cartwright said.
"What they will bring that is unique to the conflict is their ability to get down lower, therefore to be able to get better visibility on ... targets now that have started to dig themselves in into defensive positions," Cartwright said.
Cartwright said the Predators had been active over Libya but were unarmed and used to gather intelligence. The first armed remote controlled flights were launched on Wednesday but were called back due to poor weather, Cartwright said.
Defence Secretary Robert Gates said the deployments do not represent a major increase of the US role in the NATO mission designed to protect civilians and enforce a no-fly zone in Libya's civil war.
"This is a very limited additional role on our part but it does provide some additional capabilities to NATO," Gates said.
Predators, which are armed with Hellfire missiles, have operated for years along the Afghan-Pakistan border, targeting elements of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The US does not publicly acknowledge the flights over Pakistan.