American drones armed with Hellfire missiles are flying surveillance over Baghdad to protect the U.S. military advisers providing intelligence and advice to the Iraqi military as they fight Sunni militants, defense officials said Friday.
The officials told NBC News that the drones are not meant to hunt militant forces or launch airstrikes, only to provide cover in case the Americans come under enemy fire as they move around Baghdad. The U.S. is also flying armed and unarmed drones, plus manned and armed F-18 fighter jets, over the Iraqi territory controlled by the militants, the officials said. The surveillance planes are not authorized to fire on the militants, the officials said.
— Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube