US will supply Pakistan with 12 Shadow unarmed drones: Gates

Last Updated 22 January 2010, 09:38 IST

The decision to supply twelve RQ-7 Shadow Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV's) to Pakistan was announced by visiting US Defence Secretary Robert Gates during an interaction with the local media.

American forces and security agencies use the Shadow unarmed UAV's as an intelligence asset and for training operatives of Reaper and Predator drones. These UAV's are unarmed and essentially low flying machines used for reconnaissance and intelligence gathering.

Along with announcing proposed supply of drones to Islamabad, Gates clarified that US has no designs on Pakistan's nuclear weapons and no intension to take them over.
He also said that Washington had no wish to occupy Pakistan or split the country, "The US does not covet a single inch of Pakistani soil".
US has set aside one billion dollars in its Coalition Support Fund to provide weapons and equipment to Pakistan for the war against terrorism and the drones would be part of this package. The Shadow UAV's will help build the Pakistan Army's capacity for intelligence-gathering, he said.

The Defence Secretary evaded a question by a journalist on whether the US would impose any condition that the Shadow drones could not be used along Pakistan's eastern border with India.

The Shadow drone is much smaller that the Predator UAV's used by the US to target militants in Pakistan's tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.
The Shadow is 11.2 feet long and has a wingspan of 14 feet. The latest version of this drone has a range of about 110 km and an endurance of six hours.
The Pakistan Army already has less sophisticated and indigenously developed drones that it uses for surveillance and reconnaissance purposes.
Gates also said the US will soon make a payment of 500 million dollars from the Coalition Support Fund to reimburse Pakistan for its expenses in the war on terror. Islamabad has been complaining about delays in the reimbursement of its expenses.
When asked in an interview with Pakistan Television, if Washington would supply Islamabad with the UAV's, Gates said, "There are some tactical UAV's that we are considering, yes".
The country's media reported that President Asif Ali Zardari had taken up the issue of giving control of the drones to Pakistani forces in his meeting with Gates.
Dawn reported that Zardari told Gates that the use of armed drones had led to huge anti-American feeling. He claimed, people would be less critical if the drones were used by Pakistani troops.
The Shadow drones would come armed with sensors and cameras feeding video images back to operators on the ground.
In his interaction with the media, Gates made it clear that Pakistan military had choices to make about its resources and focus them as the US armed forces had done against terrorists and armed extremists.

(Published 22 January 2010, 08:45 IST)

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