US plans to replace drones with manned aircraft
In the wake of wide scale criticism and warnings by a top United Nations official over the use of unmanned drones to target militants in Pakistan's lawless tribal region and other troubled areas across the world, the US is now planning to use manned spy aircrafts in the 'war on terror.'
According to reports in the US media, in order to counter possible legal ramifications emerging from the use of Predator drones, the Pentagon is planning to introduce a manned aircraft to continue its anti-terror operations.
The aircraft known as the MC-12 Liberty is a four-person, twin-engine propeller plane, whose design is based on any other civilian aircraft.
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Image: A US commander performs a pre-flight inspection of an MQ-1B Predator unmanned drone
Photographs: Handout / Reuters
Pentagon's prized possession
While critics have denounced the Central Intelligence Agency operated drones for not observing any legal code, the new aircraft is operated by US Air Force personnel who follow a legal code, which includes international obligations observed during an armed conflict.
The Pentagon claims that the intelligence gathered by the MC-12 has led to the capturing of about 60 terrorists and criminals in Iraq and the killing or capturing of 20 insurgents in Afghanistan, including four top militant commanders.
The MC-12 aircraft also helped locate hundreds of roadside bombs around Marjah in advance of a Marine-led offensive there in March.
According to reports, the US Air Force plans to spend $ 100 million to train officials to put the aircraft's spy technology to optimum use over the next two years.
Image: A MQ-9 Predator B moved to the tarmac for maintenance at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, US
Photographs: Jeff Topping / Reuters
'CIA operates within legal framework'
However, top CIA officials have also made it clear that the unmanned drones would continue to remain the weapon of choice.
Both Paul Gimigliano and George Little, while defending the intelligence agency's operated missile strikes in Pakistan and other countries, stressed that the CIA's operations were being carried out within a legal framework.
"Without discussing or confirming any specific action or programme, this agency's operations unfold within a framework of law and close government oversight," The Dawn quoted them, as saying.
"The accountability's real, and it would be wrong for anyone to suggest otherwise," officials added.
Image: Activists protest against the US drone attacks that has 'ravaged' Pakistan
Photographs: Ali Imam / Reuters