Obama Approves Use of Armed Predator Drones Over Libya

American forces will step involvement in Libya with armed Predator Drones.

ByABC News
April 21, 2011, 3:43 PM

April 21, 2011 -- President Obama has given approval for two armed American Predator drones to operate over Libya, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The U.S. has flown armed drones in Libya for the past several weeks, but they have been used only for surveillance. They will now be used to strike Gadhafi's forces as part of the civilian protection mission.

British, French and Italian forces have already agreed to step up their efforts to aid the rebels.

The use of drones is significant, too, because it marks the United States' return to using force for civilian protection mission for the first time since shortly after the U.S. handed full authority of the mission over to NATO last month. Bombing drops by U.S. planes that have taken place since then were only to take out Gadhafi's air defenses for the separate no-fly zone enforcement mission.

American forces are helping to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya, aiding rebel forces struggling against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

The drones, aircraft without pilots that the U.S. military has also used in Afghanistan and over Pakistan., will be used to root out Gadhafi forces that are burrowed into urban areas. Their first mission was to be today but they didn't drop any bombs and the mission was curtailed today because of bad weather.

Gates, appearing at the Pentagon today with Marine Gen. James Cartwright, said these drones have the capability to fly lower than piloted AC-130 gunships and better identify targets of Gadhafi forces burrowed into urban areas with less threat of collateral damage. They're also able to stay on a target for much longer than a plan can, they can be in the air all day long.

Cartwright noted that the nature of the fight has changed recently, with the conflict taking place more now in urban areas near civilian populations.

Gates would not say where the drones will fly from, but he said they are based "in theater." He said they did not come from Afghanistan.