US moves to arm Italy's Reaper UAVs

The Obama administration intends to arm about a half dozen Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles owned by Italy with Hellfire missiles and precision-guided munitions, reports the New York Times.

The controversial move is being applauded by some observers because it supports a loyal NATO ally fighting alongside the United States in Afghanistan, but it is being criticized by other observers as opening the floodgates to similar requests from other NATO allies eager to arm their surveillance UAVs, the story said. Currently, Britain is the only other foreign country flying armed UAVs built by the United States.

Italian officials have pushed to arm their Reapers in the wake of an incident in which an Italian soldier died in a firefight in Afghanistan while an unarmed aircraft on a surveillance mission flew overhead without the ability to fire on insurgents who were engaging a group of Italy's 4,000-strong force deployed in the country, a senior congressional aide said, according to the story.

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