SEOUL, Feb. 22 (Aju News) -- A U.S. Gray Eagle drone company was launched this week in South Korea, although China has raised an eyebrow at the deployment of advanced American weaponry on the Korean peninsula.
The launch of a drone unit on Wednesday came as South Korea is eager to foster an inter-Korean thaw brought by North Korea's surprise decision to send Winter Olympic athletes, cheerleaders and a high-level delegation across the border.
The system capable of carrying four Hellfire air-to-surface missiles has upgraded reconnaissance and surveillance technology over that of the Predator drones. It can also integrate with Apache attack helicopters.
Grey Eagle features an automatic takeoff and landing system that allows the aircraft to be launched and recovered without any operator interaction. It could reach speeds of up to 280 kilometers (168 miles) per hour during its 30 hour operation time.
Washington has said the Gray Eagle company based in an American air base at the southwestern port city of Gunsan would enhance defenses against North Korean threats. Hangars and supporting facilities for the permanent deployment of 12 Gray Eagle drones have been built in Gunsan.
Gray Eagle is not an attack drone, US troops in South Korea said in a statement on Wednesday, adding the advanced unmanned aircraft system would be put into full operation in April next year, with its first flight slated for this spring.
Under constant missile and nuclear threats from North Korea, some 28,000 American troops stationed in South Korea have bolstered their war capabilities by introducing high-tech and advanced weaponry, including a missile shield which sparked a diplomatic row between Seoul and Beijing when it was deployed in South Korea last year.
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