More than a dozen current and former US officials confirmed for the first time to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) the longstanding existence of a precise military weapon described as a “speeding anvil” dropping from the sky, capable of killing an individual terrorist target – all without making a single explosion.
The inert warhead doesn’t explode but rather drops more than 45 kilograms (100 pounds) of steel aligned in a ring of six long blades that explode within seconds of impact, shredding through the roofs of vehicles and buildings. Nicknamed “flying Ginsu” – a nod to a popularized brand of knives that can chop through anything – one official says the missile solves a “right seat, left seat” problem in that it can theoretically target one person on the side of a vehicle without harming other passengers.
The drone-operated R9X missile is a level up from the clunkier and far more destructive Hellfire missile. Despite having been used a handful of times in several Middle Eastern countries, the US government and military personnel have kept its existence under lock and key since its development under the Obama administration as early as 2011. That didn’t stop reporters from speculating about the existence of such a cutting-edge secret weapon since the 2017 assassination of Al Qaeda’s Abu Khayr al Masri in Syria. Photographs of the Kia sedan Marsi was traveling in showed “unusual details for such a strike: The vehicle sustained no major explosive damage, but a projectile clearly struck it directly through its roof,” reported the New York Times, adding that the “precision strike was either a dud or the United States deliberately used an inert warhead to kill its target by high-velocity impact, avoiding possible civilian casualties with an explosive warhead.”
R9X is not used often and is only deployed for specific situations, such as when killing a targeted leader would put innocent bystanders at risk. Such was the case in 2011 when Obama launched a campaign to kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Though a team of special forces ultimately killed the world’s most wanted man, the “ninja bomb” was standing by as a “Plan B”.
WSJ adds that the weapon has been used in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia but was only able to confirm two specific strikes, one carried out by the Defense Department and the other by the Central Intelligence Agency. "The CIA, Pentagon and Hellfire missile maker Lockheed Martin Corp. declined to comment," according to the WSJ.
Its ability to precisely pinpoint where a target may be hiding addresses humanitarian and legal considerations of civilian casualties and fatalities that often undermine international support of US military operations. This is particularly true in recent years as terrorist groups have adapted to airstrikes by hiding with innocent women and children to protect themselves.
[H/T: Wall Street Journal]