Smaller missiles used in many drone strikes
The CIA is using new, smaller missiles and advanced surveillance techniques to minimize civilian casualties in its targeted killings of suspected insurgents in Pakistan's tribal areas, according to current and former officials in the United States and Pakistan.The increasing accuracy permits the use of the smaller munitions. In previous wars we would have been trying to hit these guys with several 500 pound bombs are larger. It would have also made their strategy of hugging close to non combatants more effective. The story does not indicate what kind of smaller UAVs may have been used for the attacks with the 35 pound missile. It could be that they can get three times as many of the smaller missiles on one Predator.
The technological improvements have resulted in more accurate operations that have provoked relatively little public outrage, the officials said. Pakistan's government has tolerated the airstrikes, which have killed hundreds of suspected insurgents since early 2009, but that support has always been fragile and could quickly evaporate, U.S. and Pakistani officials said.
Last month, a small CIA missile, probably no bigger than a violin case and weighing about 35 pounds, tore through the second floor of a house in Miram Shah, a town in the tribal province of South Waziristan. The projectile exploded, killing a top al-Qaeda official and about nine other suspected terrorists.
The mud-brick house collapsed and the roof of a neighboring house was damaged, but no one else in the town of 5,000 was hurt, according to U.S. officials who have reviewed after-action reports.
The agency, using 100-pound Hellfire missiles fired from remotely controlled Predator aircraft, once targeted militants largely in rural settings, but lighter weapons and miniature spy drones have made killings in urban areas more feasible, officials said.
According to an internal CIA accounting described to The Washington Post, just over 20 civilians are known to have died in missile strikes since January 2009, in a 15-month period that witnessed more than 70 drone attacks that killed 400 suspected terrorists and insurgents. Agency officials said the CIA's figures are based on close surveillance of targeted sites both before and after the missiles hit.