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US to deploy new Gray Eagle attack drone system in South Korea

By KIM GAMEL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 13, 2017

SEOUL, South Korea — The U.S. military is deploying a new Gray Eagle attack drone system in South Korea as it moves to bolster capabilities against a growing threat from the North.

A Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial Systems company will be permanently stationed at Kunsan Air Base, south of Seoul, U.S. Forces Korea said Monday.

Work has begun on upgrading infrastructure to pave way for the company, which is expected to be active at the beginning of next year, Maj. Jennifer Lovett, a USFK spokeswoman, told Stars and Stripes.

The company will be assigned to the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division, a USFK statement said. The military did not immediately say how many drones would be sent to the divided peninsula or give a timeline for their arrival.

It said the drone system will add “significant intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability” to U.S. forces in Korea and their South Korean allies. The stationing of the company directly supports the “strategic plan to add one Gray Eagle company to each division in the Army,” it added.

A South Korean military official, who was not identified, also told the Yonhap news agency that the drone would enhance the allies’ abilities to strike ground targets in North Korea.

“In case of a war on the Korean Peninsula, the unmanned aircraft could infiltrate into the skies of North Korea and make a precision strike on the war command and other major military facilities,” the official told Yonhap.

The Gray Eagle, which is an advanced version of the Predator, was developed for the Army by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. It is capable of carrying four Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, according to the company’s website.

The U.S. has about 28,500 servicemembers stationed in the South, which remains technically at war with the North after the 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

Tensions have risen sharply since last year when North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and launched two dozen ballistic missiles despite international condemnation and economic sanctions aimed at persuading it to stop its weapons program.

gamel.kim@stripes.com

Twitter: @kimgamel

A soldier with Delta Company, 25th Aviation Regiment inspects the airframe of an MQ-1C Gray Eagle last year at Fort Wainwright, Alaska's Ladd Army Airfield.
SEAN BRADY/U.S. ARMY

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