THE PENTAGON — Department of Defense officials confirmed Sunday that Predator drone FYQ-7709, which has been implicated in an alleged missile strike on a Pakistan wedding that killed dozens of innocent civilians, has had a history of violent incidents throughout its 7-year career.
“7709 has had a series of incidents, has been counseled on them, and even attended anger management classes at one point during its last deployment,” said one senior defense official, who asked to remain anonymous since the investigation into the wedding strike is ongoing.
FYQ-7709 is a General Atomics-manufactured MQ-1L or “Reaper” model, a configuration which allows the UAV to be used for both reconnaissance and missile strikes.
The senior defense official confirmed that Predator FYQ-7709 had never received any serious disciplinary actions due to superiors downgrading or “suspending” punishments, and the drone was allowed to return to duty each time.
According to its service record, 7709 saw combat in Yemen, Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan, in addition to its current deployment to Pakistan. In each of those locations, 7709’s record indicates that it received “negative counseling” for incidents involving violence, poor performance or other issues. Civilian charges, filed outside the military justice system, have led to speculation that 7709 also has a history of stalking targets, often hovering for hours or days over an objective before depositing its payload.
Records prior to 2002 were unavailable due to a fire in the microfiche archives at Aberdeen Proving Ground in 2011, but references in the extant portions also suggest that 7709 had the same problems in Bosnia and Serbia in the 1990s.
“There is a very clear history of these problems,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “And you have to ask yourself, why would President Bush allow this unstable UAV, with a rap sheet of these problems, to deploy time and again? My party isn’t in control of the committee, but if we were, you can bet there would be more than a slap on the wrist for all involved. Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this vicious predator to remain in the service and this is just further evidence of their war on women.”
While Pentagon officials refrained from commenting on the record, they stressed that FYQ-7709 was still at large, and is armed with ordnance up to and including AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. Members of the public who spot 7709 should use extreme caution, refrain from approaching it, and immediately notify national security officers.