The drones were activated in the past 24 hours, CNN reported, citing information from an unidentified official. Prior drone flights over Iraq, U.S. officials have maintained, were unarmed reconnaissance flights.
The armed drones are in use to protect U.S. military advisers in Baghdad, and are not meant to be used in airstrikes against militants who have taken control of much of Iraq and are massing on the outskirts of Baghdad for a possible invasion, the official noted.
President Obama's approval is required for any airstrikes regarded as offensive, and not defensive.
The launch of the armed drones comes the day after Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki said in an interview advances of militants could have been avoided had Iraq obtained appropriate air cover, a reference to fighter planes Iraq attempted to obtain from the United States.