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The CIA designed a secret Hellfire missile that's basically a meteor filled with swords to minimize civilian casualties
In a joint effort to reduce the potential for civilian casualties resulting from U.S. air strikes, the Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency have reportedly developed a specialized variant of the ubiquitous Hellfire missile that can best be described a 100-pound flying switchblade.
A fascinating report in the Wall Street Journal based on accounts from multiple current and former U.S. officials describes the R9X variant, covertly deployed against targets in Syria and Yemen since 2017, as a Hellfire with an inert warhead, essentially a rocket-powered update to the "Lazy Dog" bombs that U.S. soldiers would release at terminal velocity from aircraft above the battlefields of Korea and Vietnam.
The logic behind the R9X isn't that different from the other forms of kinetic bombardment pursued by the Pentagon in recent decades from the Lazy Dogs to the Navy's electromagnetic railgun and associated hypervelocity projective so viscerally lethal: you're hitting the enemy with something very hard and very dense, moving very fast.
But for the R9X, the moment before impact is where things get, uh, dicey. From the Wall Street Journal (emphasis ours):
A modified version of the well-known Hellfire missile, the weapon carries an inert warhead. Instead of exploding, it is designed to plunge more than 100 pounds of metal through the tops of cars and buildings to kill its target without harming individuals and property close by.
To the targeted person, it is as if a speeding anvil fell from the sky, the officials said. But this variant of the Hellfire missile, designated as the R9X, also comes equipped with a different kind of payload: a halo of six long blades that are stowed inside and then deploy through the skin of the missile seconds before impact, shredding anything in its tracks.
On the one hand, yes, inert aerial bombs are a relatively effective way to deal violence over a specific area and defeat armored vehicles without spraying innocent bystanders with fire, shrapnel, and debris.
On the other hand, though: this is basically like dropping a rocket-assisted meteor full of swords on someone.
Indeed, that's exactly what happened to Ahmad Hasan Abu Khayr al-Masri, the al Qaeda second-in-command who, according to the Wall Street Journal, the CIA allegedly targeted with an R9X in Syria's Idlib Province in February 2017. Here are some photos from the strike's aftermath, courtesy of former British Army officer-turned-digital investigator Nick Waters:
Fucking swords, man. Fucking swords.
WATCH NEXT: US Drones Help Reclaim Sirte, Libya
Once again, the United States and the Taliban are apparently close to striking a peace deal. Such a peace agreement has been rumored to be in the works longer than the latest "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" sequel. (The difference is Keanu Reeves has fewer f**ks to give than U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.)
Both sides appeared to be close to reaching an agreement in September until the Taliban took credit for an attack that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. That prompted President Donald Trump to angrily cancel a planned summit with the Taliban that had been scheduled to take place at Camp David, Maryland, on Sept. 8.
Now Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has told a Pakistani newspaper that he is "optimistic" that the Taliban could reach an agreement with U.S. negotiators by the end of January.
75 years ago, Audie Murphy earned his Medal of Honor with nothing but a burning tank destroyer's .50 cal and insane bravery
Editor's note: a version of this post first appeared in 2018
On January 26, 1945, the most decorated U.S. service member of World War II earned his legacy in a fiery fashion.
Florida senators are pushing for Purple Hearts for service members wounded in the NAS Pensacola shooting
Florida's two senators are pushing the Defense Department to award Purple Hearts to the U.S. service members wounded in the December shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
The Navy Department is in the middle of a new force-structure review, which could change the number and types of ships the sea services say they'll need to fight future conflicts. But instead of trying to project what they will need three decades out, which has been the case in past assessments, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the services will take a shorter view.
"I don't know what the threat's going to be 30 years from now, but if we're building a force structure for 30 years from now, I would suggest we're probably not building the right one," he said Friday at a National Defense Industrial Association event.
The Navy completed its last force-structure assessment in 2016. That 30-year plan called for a 355-ship fleet.
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The police officer killed during a traffic stop in Newport News on Thursday night was a well-liked young officer who just graduated from the police academy seven months ago, Police Chief Steve Drew said at a somber news conference Friday.