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The drone that killed General Qassem Soleimani

PortandTerminal.com, January 6, 2020

WASHINGTON – Unless you have been hiding under a rock lately, and there are plenty of good reasons to do that these days, you know that Iranian General Qassem Soleimani was killed by an American drone strike last Friday (Jan. 3) in Iraq.

Soleimani was travelling to Baghdad on a private charter flight to meet with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the Iraqi leader of the Iranian-backed Shia militia.

Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani (L) and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias sharing a quiet word
File photo (2017) of the two men killed in the drone attack. Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani (L) and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias. Credit Hossein Velayati, Fars News Agency / Wikipedia

The two men had important business to discuss. The Iraqi leader’s supporters had just laid siege to the US embassy in Baghdad for two days last week in retaliation for US airstrikes that killed 25 militia fighters on 29 December.

What neither man knew was that they were being observed by an American MQ-9 Reaper drone which was transmitting their movements to the Pentagon and CIA.

After the men and their bodyguards climbed into SUVs and were leaving the airport the drone fired two missiles, slamming into the first car carrying Suleimani and Muhandis, buckling the metal and setting it on fire.

Video: The Guardian Newspaper

A third missile followed quickly, striking the second car carrying their bodyguards.

The impacts were devastating. While Muhandis appears to have been vaporised on contact, Suleimani’s hand, covered in grey ash, was pictured dangling through a window, identifiable by the ruby ring he always wore.

The World’s Most Feared Drone

The drone used in the strike on the two military leaders was the MQ-9 Reaper, aka “The World’s Most Feared Drone”

The MQ-9 Reaper drone is known for being one of the deadliest unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the world. The MQ-9 Reaper, or ‘Predator B’ drone has only one objective to find, fix and finish its targets. It is manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.

With a range of 1,150 miles and the ability to fly at altitudes of 50,000 feet, the MQ-9 Reaper system is an “armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance” remotely piloted aircraft designed primarily for offensive strikes, according to the US Air Force.

A closeup look at the Reaper’s firepower.Getty Images

The Reaper, which became operational in 2007, has a wingspan of 66 feet and a cruising speed of roughly 230 mph.

It’s operated remotely by a pilot and a sensor operator and costs $64.2 million per unit according to its fact sheet. It can also be disassembled and loaded into a single container for deployment worldwide. As of 2016, the Air Force had 195 MQ-9 Reaper drones in its arsenal.

The MQ-9 Reaper is larger and more robust than its predecessor, the MQ-1 Predator, and is capable of annihilating targets with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles or other munitions.

The AGM-114 Hellfire is an air-to-surface missile (ASM) first developed for anti-armor use, but later models were developed for precision drone strikes against other target types, and have been used in a number of targeted killings of high-profile individuals.

In a rare public sighting, the MQ-9 was spotted giving a flyover at roughly 800-1000 feet last month at Nellis Air Force Base in southern Nevada, The Aviationist reports.

“It was nearly silent,” the website reported. “The flyover, the first of its kind at Nellis, sent a collective shiver up air show viewers’ spines.

Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis would never have known what hit them.

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