One way the U.S. military could maintain a presence in Iraq, even if by proxy, in the near future is through the use of unmanned drones with foreboding names like the MQ-9 Reaper and the Predator, both of which are able to carry seriously sinister weaponry like the laser-guided Hellfire missile.
Lieutenant General Gary North, the commander of US air forces in the Middle East, said he is examining options for when and where he can replace manned fighter and bomber aircraft with armed drones.
“Today we are in an environment where we may not need the large number or persistence of manned aircraft,” he said in an interview by telephone Friday with AFP from a base in the region.
“We can put unmanned aircraft—Predator, Reaper, and other assets—overhead for long endurance periods. We call that persistent stare.
“And with the Reaper, armed with Hellfire and 500-pound precision weapons, we’ll be able to have a deadly stare if needed,” he said.