UK Drones Fired ‘Cruel and Unnecessary’ Thermobaric Missiles in Syria


The United Kingdom’s Defense Ministry appears to have mistakenly let slip the fact that UK-owned MQ-9 Reaper drones have used thermobaric missiles, an extremely powerful weapon known to kill anything in its path indiscriminately, in Syria.

A Freedom of Information Act disclosure by the British Ministry of Defense dated May 1 shows that the combat drones fired 19 AGM-114N4 Hellfire missiles in Syria during the first two months of 2017. The FOIA disclosure was sent to Drone Wars, which first reported on the use of the UK’s weapons.

The basic idea behind a thermobaric missile is that it releases a cloud of explosive compounds into the air before impact. Upon impact and explosion of the weapon’s internal payload, the fuel-air mixture is detonated, too. Accordingly, they are also commonly known as fuel-air explosives, or FAEs.

According to Drone Wars, “The ‘N’ version of the missile uses a Metal Augmented Charge warhead that contains a thermobaric explosive fill using aluminum with the explosive mixture.”

FAEs commonly draw criticism from human rights groups and American intelligence professionals, two groups ostensibly at loggerheads with one another on many other topics. In 2008, The UK Times reported “the weapons are so controversial that MoD weapons and legal experts spent 18 months debating whether British troops could use them without breaking international law.”

Sophia de Tricht, a rocket motor…

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