Published: Apr 21, 2011 9:42 PM EDT
Updated: Apr 21, 2011 6:42 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama has approved the use of armed Predator drone aircraft in Libya to improve the precision of low-level attacks on ground targets, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday.

The first Predator mission since Obama's go-ahead was flown Thursday but the aircraft - armed with Hellfire missiles - turned back early due to poor weather conditions, Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a news conference with Gates.

"President Obama has said that where we have some unique capabilities, he is willing to use those," Gates said. "And in fact he has approved the use of armed Predators."

"What they will bring that is unique to the conflict is their ability to get down lower, therefore to be able to get better visibility on targets that have started to dig themselves into defensive positions," Cartwright said. "They are uniquely suited for urban areas."

Cartwright did not specify what targets the aborted Predator mission Thursday was intended to strike.

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