If you happen to be deemed an enemy of the United States, and are targeted by the R9X – aka “the flying Ginsu” or “ninja bomb” – a kinetic non-explosive munition that was spawned from the widely used Hellfire missile, may God help you.
Hell indeed … described as a 45-kilogram anvil that drops out of the sky at nearly 1,600 km/h, this precision warhead is equipped with six sword-like blades that allow the missile to cut through buildings or cars with ease – hence sparing collateral damage, but ripping the target to pieces.
So vicious and surgical is its outcome that it shows no signs of scorched earth or burning vehicles typical of a missile strike.
Death comes instantly and without prejudice, without judge or jury – an executive action carried out in a darkened, air-conditioned room in a complex outside outside Las Vegas, on the orders of the shadowy US Central Intelligence Agency.
But some analysts are left to wonder – the R9X has no explosive, just six lethal steel blades. Will this mean it is used more? And is that a good thing?
The weapon had been in use for some time, reports say, with development dating back as far as 2011 under former president Barack Obama, according to The Marine Times.
It wasn’t until 2019, however, that more than a dozen current and former US officials discussed the vicious attributes of the R9X, a non-explosive munition that was spawned from the Hellfire missile, The Marine Times reported.
The R9X, which deploys its six fixed blades in a halo seconds before impact, is believed to have been designed with the intent of eliminating high-value targets while reportedly reducing the risk of collateral damage, traits officials believe should have been publicly disclosed years ago to illustrate a willingness to minimize civilian deaths in densely populated urban centers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia or Yemen.
Recent photos and videos posted on Twitter, meanwhile, indicate one such strike was carried out in Syria’s Idlib governorate using at least three of the 45kg-pound warheads on terrorists with links to al-Qaeda, The Marine Times reported.
Two members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated terror group, Hurras al-Din, were killed in the strike, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an information office based in the United Kingdom. The US government merely refers to them as “AQs.”
The SUV the two targets were reportedly driving was left in a mangled heap with clear signs of the bladed anvil’s handy work, The Marine Times reported.
The presence of multiple blades, along with the warhead’s apparent AGM-114R-9X nomenclature, yielded additional evidence of the devastation’s source, The War Zone noted.
The missile’s “express purpose of reducing civilian casualties,” one official told The Wall Street Journal, makes it both cost- and time-effective, as drones do not have to linger while awaiting clearance of civilians.
So precise is the munition, according to another former official, that a target riding in the passenger seat of a moving car could be eliminated without killing the driver – in other words, a “left seat, right seat” capability.
We are told the warhead’s use remains limited, as missions targeting buildings, convoys or camps are commonly carried out using explosive warheads.
However, the Pentagon is in no hurry to release information in this regard, and we are left only to speculate on its present and future use.
And while it is exemplary to cut down on collateral damage in these unrelenting “signature strikes” in the so-called war on terror, a “flying Ginsu” weapon hardly reflects the moral high ground America lays claim to … let’s face it, this is a CIA assassination weapon, it ain’t the heroics of Omaha Beach.
Furthermore, according to Human Rights Watch, absent further clarity over civilian casualties – the latest UN monitoring puts the number of civilians killed at roughly 10 times as many as official US data, a vast disparity – it will be next to impossible to assess what difference, if any, the R9X will make in saving bystanders.
On its own, the R9X won’t resolve the host of legal issues surrounding the US targeted killing program, which since 2002 has killed thousands of people with scant transparency.