19:40 GMT22 February 2020
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    The US Defense Department announced Thursday that the US Air Force has signed a new $279-million contract to the California-based defense contractor General Atomics for provision of 24 MQ-9 Block 5 Reaper aircrafts.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The United States Air Force has issued a new $279-million contract to the California-based defense contractor General Atomics to produce Reaper drones and supporting equipment and parts, according to a statement by the US Defense Department on Thursday.

    “Procurement funds in the amount of $279,144,933 are being obligated at the time of award,” the statement said. “The contractor will provide 24 MQ-9 Block 5 Reaper aircraft and associated spare parts, support equipment and spares.”

    While Reaper drones are primarily used for intelligence gathering, they can also deploy Hellfire missiles and laser-guided bombs, according to the Air Force.

    US drone strikes have killed nearly 2,500 people in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia during the tenure of President Barack Obama, according to the latest monthly report by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

    Critics have charged that the done strikes violate international law and result in civilian deaths. UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez criticized the Obama administration over the killing of 16 civilians by US drone strikes in Yemen at two separate wedding processions.

    “A deadly attack on illegitimate targets amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment if, as in this case, it results in serious physical or mental pain and suffering for the innocent victims,” Mendez said in a statement.

    General Atomics is expected to finish and deliver the Reaper drones by September 2017, according to the Defense Department.


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