The new missile, known as the R9X, has already bene dubbed a 'ninja bomb' or 'the flying Ginsu', in a nod to popular Japanese knife infomercials from the 1980s. According to the Wall Street Journal, the 45 kg bomb has been used on at least two occasions – in Syria in February 2017 and in Yemen in January 2019, with the military telling the newspaper they fired the weapon "about a half-dozen times."
Now, photos have emerged online purporting to show the aftermath of a strike involving the bomb. Journalist Nick Waters posted photos from a strike targeting former al-Qaeda deputy head Abu Khayr al-Masri, who was killed in a mysterious 'explosion-free' strike on his vehicle in Idlib, Syria in February 2017.
I remember puzzling over these cuts for ages trying to work out what had hit the car of Abu Khayr al-Masri, deputy leader of Al-Qaeda.— Nick Waters (@N_Waters89) 9 мая 2019 г.
Turns out it was a Hellfire missle with fucking swords attached to it. pic.twitter.com/aJW524c1Ph
"I remember puzzling over these cuts for ages trying to work out what had hit [al-Masri's car]. Turns out it was a Hellfire missile with f***ing swords attached to it," Waters wrote.
Other users quickly did a little more digging, discovering more photos and videos from the al-Masri strike.
Multiple reports that a drone strike in Idlib killed Abu Khayr al-Masri, deputy leader of Al-Qaeda (second in command to Ayman al-Zawahiri). pic.twitter.com/JKmJ1ClCE8— Tobias Schneider (@tobiaschneider) 26 февраля 2017 г.
I remember this strike too — @SMARTNewsAgency had some video of the aftermath as well. https://t.co/DIN4UQTuo5— Jake Godin (@JakeGodin) 9 мая 2019 г.
Feel like I remember either hearing about or seeing at least one other occasion where something similar happened in Syria, but can't remember where or when it was. pic.twitter.com/TZbEE8aXis
The R9X's use of knives and gravity gives it the potential to be considerably more precise than the standard Hellfire AGM-114 missile and its variants, whose armour-piercing warheads, airburst and fragmentation capabilities make them extremely deadly, and prone to causing civilian casualties, which the US military typically dubs 'collateral damage'.
The United States has dropped tens of thousands of bombs and killed thousands of civilians in the nearly twenty years during which it has run military campaigns across the Middle East, with campaigns in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Yemen killing thousands of people in drone strikes and traditional air attacks. Earlier this year, President Donald Trump revoked an executive order requiring the White House to publicise the number of civilians killed in military strikes outside of countries officially designated as war zones by the Pentagon.