Iranian General Qassem Soleimani was killed in a US airstrike at Baghdad's international airport early on January 3. The order of events that led to the killing of the head of Iran's elite Quds Force -- and sent Middle East tensions soaring -- started in Beirut.
The United States, well-informed about Soleimani's travel plans, observed him board the aircraft headed to Baghdad International Airport. His exit from the plane in Iraq was tracked by drones moving above, including one built by closely-held General Atomics armed with laser-guided Hellfire air-to-surface missiles regularly used in attacks on high-value terrorists.
Iran's top military general was assassinated by the MQ-9 Reaper, which is considered to be one of the deadliest drones in US' arsenal. It had Soleimani in its sights for around 10 minutes before firing on two cars carrying the Iranian commander and other senior leaders and aides, including the head of an Iraqi-based militia group that has been in conflict with the US forces.
The cameras on the Reaper drone have made it viable to identify Soleimani, determine his location in a vehicle and even what kind of clothing he wore.
Features of the MQ-9 Reaper drone:
- Also known as 'Predator B' drone, it has only one objective - to find, fix and finish its targets.
- The MQ-9 Reaper drone is known for its speed, firepower & also stealth.
- The US Air Force has bought 93 of these deadly machines from the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems at a cost of $64.2 million per unit.
- The Reaper, a long-endurance aircraft with a 66-foot wingspan.
- The 'M' in its name stands for 'multi-role' while the 9 designates where it falls in the series of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).