Ever heard of a missile that doesn’t explode?
That, the Wall Street Journal reports, is a key feature of a secret weapon adapted by the US military.
It’s a modified version of a Hellfire missile that hits pinpoint targets but doesn’t explode on impact, meaning reduced damage and less risk of civilian casualties.
The weapon, which the Journal likens to a “speeding anvil” falling out of the sky, is known as R9X. But it also has a nickname, “the flying Ginsu,” inspired by its hidden ring of six blades, which emerges just before impact and shreds anything it meets.
— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) May 9, 2019
The missile was in development as early as 2011—a similar weapon was reportedly considered in the plot to kill Osama bin Laden—but so far the Journal has found only two instances in which it’s been used.
Essentially, the weapon is employed when a regular airstrike on a high-value target would pose a risk to innocent bystanders. Aware that the U.S. would want to avoid civilian casualties, terrorists routinely hide in places with women and children. With the R9X, the U.S. can minimize the risk.
After the CIA used the R9X to kill an al-Qaeda terrorist traveling by car in Syria in 2017, for example, photos showed a large hole in the vehicle’s roof, along with some cracks in the windshield. Otherwise, the exterior of the car appeared in pretty good shape.
I remember puzzling over these cuts for ages trying to work out what had hit the car of Abu Khayr al-Masri, deputy leader of Al-Qaeda.
Turns out it was a Hellfire missle with fucking swords attached to it. pic.twitter.com/aJW524c1Ph
— Nick Waters (@N_Waters89) May 9, 2019
Gizmodo notes rumors have been swirling about a secret weapon since that time. The Journal says the R9X also was used this year to kill the mastermind of the USS Cole bombing. (Read more missile stories.)