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    General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper

    Reaper Drones to Surveil Afghanistan Under New Pentagon $39 Million Contract

    CC BY-SA 2.0 / Tomás Del Coro / General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper
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    General Atomics, A US defense contracting company, was awarded a $39.6 million contract from the US military to operate their MQ-9 Reaper drones in Afghanistan, the US Navy announced Tuesday.

    Contract personnel with General Atomics will fly and maintain the drones in support of a US Marine Corps unit. They'll be used for reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence gathering purposes but will not be armed with weapons.

    It isn't clear how many drones are involved in the deal.

    They'll be working closely with the Marines Task Force Southwest, where the troops are on an advise and assist mission in support of Afghan forces in the southern violence-stricken Helmand and Nimruz provinces on the border with Pakistan. 

    According to The Drive, who first reported on the finalized contract, General Atomics workers will "almost certainly" operate the drones from ground control stations in Yuma, Arizona, while other contractors on the ground in Afghanistan will take care of landings and takeoffs in what the US refers to as "remote-split" operations.

    The Drive notes that the US has many times employed contractors to conduct aerial surveillance in Afghanistan, but the deal with General Atomics underscores the resurgence of American operations in the country under US President Donald Trump's new game plan.

    Sputnik News reported Wednesday that the US in 2018 is on pace to shatter other years in terms of aerial weapons deployments in Afghanistan. By the start of May, more bombs had been dropped on Afghanistan than have been between January and May of any other year on record, for which data only exists back to 2009. Such missions would be impossible without a sophisticated surveillance network, which the contract with General Atomics will only expand.

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    defense contract, US Marines, War in Afghanistan, Afghanistan
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