al Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki killed in Yemen via UAV strike
As has recently been reported, armed combat UAVs are playing a larger and larger role in US counter-terror efforts. They have played a particular role in the fight against al Qaeda, both from an intelligence perspective and a combat perspective. The killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen through a precision UAV air strike is another example of the US’ reliance on drones over conventional warfare tactics to combat the war on terror.
UAV strikes are both less expensive and pose much less risk to American soldiers than traditional warfare strategies. By removing pilots and ground troops from the equation, the US military can combat its enemies without risking American lives. Additionally, UAVs have proven to be cost effective to procure, operate, and maintain versus traditional manned aircraft. Given the current state of the US economy and the continuing war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, UAVs are becoming the prime weapon in the war on terror.
Al-Awlaki was the chief of external operations for al Qaeda’s Yemen branch and an experienced propagandist. According to several news outlets, he was killed by missiles fired from multiple Predator UAVs. This represents the fifth major terrorist kill by armed drones this year.
Per Defense Systems:
General Atomics of San Diego, the company that makes the armed Predator and Reaper drones, is now considered to be the Pentagon’s top performer, according to The Daily Beast.
These drones can carry Hellfire missiles, originally designed as tank and armored vehicle busters, under their slender wings. Aided by laser-guided targeting systems, they can easily lock in on a convoy carrying enemy operatives and destroy the vehicles killing those inside.
Each drone costs about $70 million, which is a fraction of the cost of a (manned) $2.8 billion B-2 bomber.