US Rethinks Plan to Send Deadly Drones to Ukraine, Fears They’ll Fall Into Russian Hands: Report

MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAV - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.06.2022
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US media reported earlier this month that the Biden administration had signed off on plans to send four MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles – the same kind used to carry out strikes across Afghanistan, Iraq and Niger, to Ukraine for use against Russia. The drones can be equipped with air-to-surface and air-to-air missiles and glide bombs.
The Biden administration has decided to ‘pause’ a plan to sell the US’s advanced Gray Eagle combat drones to Ukraine amid consternation that its advanced onboard surveillance equipment could be captured and analyzed by Russia, Reuters reports, citing two people said to be familiar with the matter.
The planned sale, which was reported on earlier this month, is being reconsidered after being flagged by the Defense Technology Security Administration (DTSA), an arm of the Pentagon responsible for safeguarding advanced weapons secrets in US arms sales abroad.
One official said the $40 million deal’s fate now lies with the DoD’s upper chain of command, with the timing of its final decision “uncertain.” A source also indicated that the drone could be stripped of its sophisticated sensors and radar equipment to push the deal through, but that this process would take “months” to implement. After that, it would still require the formality of congressional approval.
A Pentagon spokesperson indicated that Department of Defense technology security reviews were “standard practice for the transfer of US defense articles to all international partners,” but did not comment specifically on the fate of the Gray Eagles slated for delivery to Ukraine. “Through the established process, national security concerns are elevated to the appropriate approving authority,” the spokesperson said.
This image provided by the U.S. Marine Corps, shows a Switchblade 300 10C drone system being used as part of a training exercise at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., on Sept. 24, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.05.2022
Mysterious Drones US Delivering to Ukraine Were Developed by Secretive USAF Office
Earlier this week, US officials told Politico that “logistical and training issues” were holding up the Gray Eagles’ transfer to Kiev, and that it could take weeks or even months before Ukrainian forces could begin using them even after the deal’s hypothetical approval.
The General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle is a heavily upgraded version of the MQ-9 Reaper used by the US Army. The unmanned drones have a 25-hour endurance time, an 8.8 km service ceiling, and a top speed of 167 km. They can be equipped with four AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles or eight AIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missiles, or four GBU-44/B Viper Strike glide bombs.
Since their introduction in 2009, Gray Eagles have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as secrecy-laden missions in Central Africa. The drones have been plagued with a host of technical problems throughout their service history, ranging from poor reliability of onboard computers and sensor failures to software issues and other problems. MQ-1Cs have suffered repeated crashes during operations, with one lost in Iraq in July 2015, and two more crashing in Agadez, Niger during patrols against Islamist militants in February 2020 and January 2021.
The Russian Defence Ministry has repeatedly warned the US and its NATO allies against the deployment of advanced weaponry to Kiev, saying there is a good chance much of it would be stolen and end up on the arms black market. An informed source told Sputnik last month that Russian and Donbass forces had shot down about 90 Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones – an UAV design comparable to the Gray Eagle, over three months.
Russian servicemen are pictured by military equipment captured by Russian troops during Russia's military operation in Ukraine, near the village of Huta-Mezhyhirska, in Ukraine. Ten Javelin American-made portable anti-tank missile systems, grenade launchers, man-portable air-defense systems were discovered at a base that was taken under control of the Russian Armed Forces - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.06.2022
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