The US administration plans to send four armed MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones to Ukraine for the country’s resistance to Russia’s invasion, Reuters revealed, citing sources.
The sale by General Atomics is subject to Congressional approval, Reuters wrote, adding that a last-minute reversal could also scuttle the plan, under review at the Pentagon for weeks.
The Biden administration wants to notify Congress in the “coming days” followed by a public announcement, the outlet wrote, citing an unnamed official.
Condensed Training Plan
The administration has “set aside” funds from the recently passed $40 billion Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative for the possible sale and for the training of Ukrainian operators of the drone.
A condensed “notional plan” to train “experienced Ukrainian maintainers and operators” on the drone in a few weeks rather than in months has recently been proposed, Reuters wrote.
The Ukrainian armed forces are using a range of unmanned aerial vehicles against the Russian military such as the armed Turkish Bayraktar-TB2 and the unarmed AeroVironment (AVAV.O) RQ-20 Puma AE.
Offers ‘Leap in Capabilities’
However, the Gray Eagle offers a leap in capabilities through its long range, endurance, and weapons payload.
It can be armed with up to four AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles capable of striking a target from a distance of 11 kilometers (7 miles).
The missile is reportedly almost twice as heavy as the MAM-L outfitted on the Bayraktar-TB2, offering much greater destructive power. Moreover, it’s compatible with a wider variety of munitions.
“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,” drone expert Dan Gettinger with the Vertical Flight Society told Reuters.
The MQ-1C can fly up to 2,877 miles (4,630 kilometers) with satellite communication and can remain aloft for 27 hours (40 hours if electronic reporting configured) at an altitude of 25,000 feet (7,620 meters).
The development comes the same day the administration announced a $700 million arms package, including Himars advanced multiple rocket systems, for Ukraine.