United States Air Force Deploys Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Over Gaza

The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is an impressive piece of military hardware. It can loiter above a battlefield at 50,000 feet for more than a day, and is capable of carrying air-to-surface and air-to-air munitions. The Reaper also has an impressive sensor suite, including high-resolution cameras and radars. This is the piece of equipment that the United States Air Force is currently operating over Gaza to search for hostages.

Officials say the flights there were unarmed and used onboard sensors to search for hostages. The aircraft can carry high-powered cameras, including those that can spot heat or operate with little to no visible light.

According to reports, at least six of the aircraft have been used, and their flight paths have focused on southern Gaza. Amelia Smith, an aviation researcher cited by the New York Times, said the Reapers typically loitered over the area for about three hours, flying at an altitude of about 25,000 feet.

Officials said it was thought to be the first time U.S. drones have flown over Gaza.

The Reaper has an operational history that includes deployment over Iraq and Afghanistan. On Friday, the Pentagon confirmed that the U.S. is now operating these UAVs over Gaza.

According to Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been flying over Gaza since Hamas’ October 7 invasion of Israel.

“In support of hostage recovery efforts, the U.S. is conducting unarmed UAV flights over Gaza, as well as providing advice and assistance to support our Israeli partner as they work on their hostage recovery efforts,” said Ryder in a statement. “These UAV flights began after the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel.”

The use of drones and UAVs is a two-edged sword, of course. Iraqi militias tied to Iran have used drones to launch an ineffective attack against U.S. forces, and Iranian-proxy militias in Syria have launched similarly ineffective drone attacks, again against American troops.

There can be no doubt that there is a legitimate reason for the United States to be operating these UAVs over Gaza, as there are American citizens being held by Hamas terrorists, and the U.S. has an interest in finding our people so we can get them home. Also, the Reapers fly well beyond the reach of anything Hamas has on hand at this point, and so an attack on a U.S. asset is, to put it mildly, unlikely. 

Here’s the onion: Is the U.S. solely passing on hostage location intelligence to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF?) That seems unlikely. Since Israel is a firm ally of the United States, and if a Reaper picked out, say, a Hamas observation post, it’s difficult to believe that this information wouldn’t be passed on to the IDF.

Meanwhile, the conflict continues. Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu has rebuffed any requests for a cease-fire, determined that Israel will prosecute this war to its final conclusion — the utter elimination of Hamas, and the IDF will be taking a good whack at Hezbollah should they continue to cause trouble. After the atrocious (in the original sense of the word) attacks of October 7th, one can scarcely blame Israel for taking this view; and if non-engaging intelligence gathering by U.S. unmanned assets can help in that effort, then so much the better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Newsom Brought Former Presidential Photographer on China Trip, Stuck CA Taxpayers With the Bill

The Federalist Explores What US Would Look Like Without Guns