The United States military has possibly killed one, maybe two, terrorists in northwestern Syria in an airstrike with a unique type of bomb which does not detonate like a conventional bomb, but instead explodes with extendable blades for precision and less civilian casualties.
The strike reportedly accorded in Atmeh, Syria, which is less than five miles away from the Turkish border and 10 miles away from where the U.S. forces killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Business Insider reported.
The international Coalition carried out an air strike near Atmeh, northwestern Idlib, apparently with the R9X Hellfire missile, which does not have an explosive charge. The areas is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. More on the missile: https://t.co/GSDlirp2D2 pic.twitter.com/h1HnVU3qVJ
— Elizabeth Tsurkov (@Elizrael) December 3, 2019
The weapon used was a specialized variant of the Hellfire missile, known as the AGM-114R9X, The Drive reported. Instead of using the warhead found on standard models, it substitutes it for a set of folding sword-like blades for minimum collateral damage and precision.
According to the Drive, some U.S. unmanned aircraft like the MQ-9 Reapers carry Hellfire missiles and have carried out targeted strikes in the northwestern region of Syria.
The R9X has been used covertly, and rarely, against targets in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere since 2017, according to The Wall Street Journal.
— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) May 9, 2019
The warhead of an R9X contains six blades designed to deploy in the seconds before impact to tear through its target, leaving little peripheral or unintended damage, unlike exploding missiles.
The 5-foot long, 100-pound missile is nicknamed “Ninja bomb” and “the flying Ginsu,” which is a reference to popular knives sold in the 1970s and 1980s marketed as being capable of cutting through almost anything from trees to vegetables.
The Hellfire missile used did not explode on impact with the car. Rather, the missile tore through the side of the vehicle and crushed the alleged terrorist inside.
Uknown warplanes have airstriked a vehicle in Atmeh, Northern Idlib.
The bodies of 2 (?) men have been mashed but the vehicle has not exploded. It’s not clear then if this is the result of an #US assassination attempt with another #US R9X missile. pic.twitter.com/hiPJA2FHve
— MrRevinsky (@Kyruer) December 3, 2019
It is unclear based on the time of publication if the one or two individuals in the vehicle were terrorists, but at least one person kill was reportedly a part of Hayat Tahrir Al Sham, or HTS, which is a group that splintered from Al Qaeda in Syria in 2017.
The strike is similar to a 2017 attack that killed Abu Khayr Al Masri, then Al Qaeda’s number two leader, while he was driving in his car in Al Mastouma, Syria.