Faced with growing questions about civilian deaths in its secret drone war in Yemen, the Obama administration has plans to equip the small and poorly trained Yemeni military to run its own “targeted killing” program, according to documents and three sources familiar with the effort.

Instead of supplying the Yemenis with high-tech drones, though, the Pentagon would arm the Yemen Air Force with a fleet of 10 rugged, two-seater propeller planes of a type usually used as crop dusters. The specially modified versions for the Yemeni program would be armed with laser-guided missiles and high-tech electronic intelligence equipment. One reason these slow, single-engine planes were chosen is because even poorly trained Yemeni pilots could learn to fly them, according to people familiar with the project.

One significant twist: American pilots may fly the planes along with Yemenis on the missions, keeping Americans involved in the controversial attacks. […]