France has decided to arm its surveillance drones in West Africa as part of counter-terrorism operations against IS militants, Defense Minister Florence Parly said on Tuesday.
The decision will initially apply only to the six unarmed Reaper surveillance drones that France bought from the United States. Most of them, based in Africa's Sahel region, are involved in the fight against Islamic extremists, Florence Parly was quoted as saying by Voice of America Tuesday.
The drones wouldn't become "killer robots," Parly said emphasizing that strikes would be governed by strict national and international rules relating to the use of force.
Arming the drones will give them "endurance, discretion, surveillance and strike capability at the right place and the right moment," she said in a speech in the southeastern city of Toulon.
The armed drones will assist France's military become "more effective" and enable it to better use its fighter jets, helicopters and other aircrafts. Parly added that in the longer term, France is also jointly working with Germany, Italy and Spain to develop an armed European drone.
The report said many countries are already using armed drones, including the United States, Israel, Great-Britain, Italy, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey.