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U.S. To Sell Armed Drones to Ukraine

U.S. To Sell Armed Drones to Ukraine
Photo Courtesy: Reuters

The Biden administration decided to sell Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that can be armed with Hellfire missiles for use against Russia. However, sources said that congress could still block the sale of the General Atomics-made drones. They added that there could also be a risk of a last-minute policy reversal that could scuttle the plan. They informed that it has been under review at the Pentagon for several days. The article contains U.S. To Sell Armed Drones to Ukraine.

Ukraine has been using several smaller, shorter-range unmanned aerial systems against Russian forces that invaded the country in late February 2022. They include the AeroVironment RQ-20 Puma A.E. and the Turkish Bayraktar-TB2. But the Gray Eagle represents a leap in technology because it can fly up to 30 or more hours depending on its mission. In addition, it can gather vast amounts of data for intelligence purposes. 

The sale is significant because it puts an advanced reusable U.S. system capable of multiple deep strikes on the battlefield against Russia for the first time. U.S. President Joe Biden intends to notify congress of the potential sale to Ukraine in the coming days, with a public announcement expected after that. A White House spokesperson referred inquiries to the Pentagon, and a Pentagon spokesperson said there was nothing to announce.

The U.S. official said that money from the recently passed $40 billion Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative had been set aside to fund the possible sale and the training needed for the drones. Drone expert Dan Gettinger with the Vertical Flight Society said, “Generally, the MQ-1C is a much larger aircraft with a max take-off weight around three times that of the Bayraktar-TB2, with commensurate advantages in payload capacity, range, and endurance.” The MQ-1C is also compatible with a greater variety of munitions than the Bayraktar-TB2. The Ukrainian Bayraktars are equipped with 22 kg Turkish-made MAM-L missiles, around half the weight of a Hellfire.

Arming the drones with Hellfire missiles will be done via a future Presidential Drawdown Authority once training on the drones has been completed. It is noted that Ukraine would get four HIMARS rocket systems; the Pentagon has stressed that smaller systems such as Javelin anti-tank systems and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, which allies are shipping to Ukraine via truck near-daily, are most helpful.

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