US Attack Drones To Be Stationed In South Korea, Countering The North’s Threats

Northrop Grumman/Bob Brown/Handout via Reuters

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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The U.S. military is sending combat drones to the Korean Peninsula, the United States Forces Korea (USFK) revealed.

The U.S. Army, in coordination with the Republic of Korea Armed Forces and the U.S. Air Force, will permanently station a company of Gray Eagle drones at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea, the USFK Public Affairs Office said Sunday.

The company of Gray Eagle combat drones will be assigned to the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade in Korea. The deployment is part of the plan to add a company of attack drones to each division of the Army.

Gray Eagle drones are remote-controlled, medium-altitude, long-range attack drones produced by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for the Army as an upgrade to Predator drones. The drones reduce the Army’s dependence on the Air Force for reconnaissance and strike operations.

North Korea has fired off five missiles in the past month. The North tested a new type of ballistic missile in mid-February and practiced carrying out nuclear strikes against U.S. bases in Japan earlier this month. The attack drones are intended to counter the North’s “continued provocative actions.”

News of the Gray Eagle deployment, the timetable for which is unclear, comes after the U.S. began deploying the first elements of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system on South Korean soil.

North Korea’s provocations, such as the two nuclear weapons tests and more than two dozen missile launches carried out last year, have alarmed officials in Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo. U.S. officials are currently weighing their options, and last week, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, stated that when it comes to dealing with the growing threats from North Korea, “all options are on the table.”

The annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint military drills began in South Korea this month. Around 17,000 U.S. troops and 300,000 South Korean troops are reportedly training to execute OPLAN 5015, a classified strategic plan which is said to call for surgical strikes against North Korea’s command and control centers, nuclear weapons facilities, and missile bases, as well as “decapitation” strikes against North Korean leadership, in the event of a serious nuclear crisis on the peninsula.

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