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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Ghost: The New Kamikaze Drone Ukraine Will Use to Battle Russia in Donbas

Switchblade drone that is used by Ukraine's forces against Russia. Image Credit: Industry handout.

U.S. Air Force ‘Ghost’ Drone Set to Be Transferred to Ukraine to Harass Russian ForcesA new drone designed to terrorize Russian forces is on its way to Ukraine. The “Phoenix Ghost” unmanned vehicle is already turning heads after the Pentagon announced it was part of a larger $800 million military assistance deal for Ukraine. One hundred twenty-one Phoenix Ghosts will soon be in the hands of Ukrainian forces. 

Another Kamikaze Drone

While details are scarce on the Phoenix Ghost it appears to be similar to the Switchblade “kamikaze drone.” This is a loitering munition that can fit in a soldier’s ruck. The smaller Switchblade can attack personnel while the larger model can take out tanks and armored vehicles.

Defense Contractor May Have a Hit On Its Hands

The Air Force had already been developing the Phoenix Ghost before the invasion and engineers apparently sped up manufacturing for their use in Ukraine.

The drone is made by Aevex Aerospace of California, a relative newcomer to defense contracting that emerged in 2017. Aevex, with 500-employees, has additional offices on the east coast along with a flight test area in New Mexico. The company specializes in low-weight LiDAR sensors for its drones.

Is it Better Than the Switchblade?

The Phoenix Ghost is believed to have longer loitering times compared to the Switchblade. The Ghost can fly at night with vertical takeoff and is able to travel over six hours to find targets. 

Lt. Gen. David Deptula, Dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies and member of the Aevex board, told Politico that “this drone is a different type of aircraft, it’s a one-way aircraft that is effective against medium armored ground targets,” he said.

Easy to Fly 

Like the Switchblade, the Phoenix Ghost is straightforward to use. It is a one-shot, one-kill and not designed to be recovered. If operators can master the Switchblade loitering munition they should have no problem with the Aevex model. This will be a critical piece of asymmetric warfare to help stymie Russian armored attacks in the Donbas region

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, “The Air Force was working this, and in discussions with the Ukrainians about their requirements, we believed that this particular system would very nicely suit their needs, particularly in eastern Ukraine.”

Modern Warfare Calls for Suicide Aerial Vehicles

The use of kamikaze drones is a significant development in modern warfare. They punch above their weight and are easy to transport. Switchblades and Phoenix Ghosts can be carried by Ukrainian special operations forces and infantry to serve as a force multiplier. They are good supplements to Javelins and other anti-tank weapons for better ambushes of Russian armor.

Part of a Larger Plan

Ukrainian fighters in the Donbas region are probably planning to lure Russian tanks into “kill zones” by denying access to minefields and other obstacles. Soldiers can be ready to launch Phoenix Ghosts or Switchblades and then have them loiter over the ambush area. Then the drones will dive down to the target.

There Could More Where That Came From

Since Aevex Aerospace was able to supply 121-Phoenix Ghosts, the company looks like it has ramped up production. Lessons learned from the battlefield can also aid in manufacturing as the firm adjusts sensors and other flight characteristics to blast Russian armor.

Suicide and swarming drones should give the Russians headaches. These are lightweight, low-cost, flying bombs. It will be interesting to see whether warheads are large enough to menace enemy tanks, but they should be able to harass troops in the open. This could give the Ukrainians a critical edge as the second phase of the war in Ukraine ensues.

Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, Ph.D., is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.



  1. Alex

    April 23, 2022 at 9:20 am

    The United States spoils Russia: they constantly supply new toys for study.

  2. Princess Alexis gets dead Sooon

    April 23, 2022 at 10:33 am

    Keep looking up, Alexis. Youtube wants to see you looking up as a suicide drone falls on your forehead!

  3. Alex

    April 24, 2022 at 4:30 am

    Near Odessa, Russian hypesonic weapons destroyed warehouses with new NATO weapons. I wonder if those toys were there?

  4. CK

    April 26, 2022 at 10:52 am

    Alex, the only toys you should worry about are the ones Sveta keeps under her bed.

    Your performance there or here are quite atrocious. You are dangerously close to being replaced if this job falls though man! You can’t afford to screw it up!

  5. Alex

    April 29, 2022 at 9:20 am

    If someone wants to know the truth about the civil war in the Donbass, about all the atrocities of the Bandera clean-ups and why Russia was forced to intervene, then it is better to watch films by independent journalists. There are already many such journalists who fight for truth and freedom. For example, a documentary by the German journalist Wilhelm Domcke-Schulz.

    A documentary film about the war crimes of the Bandera Nazis during the period of Russia’s special military operation to denazify and demilitarize Ukraine is in production. It will be a real information bomb, where the war crimes of Bandera Nazis will be shown and proved.

    The documentary “Remember Odessa” tells how the Bandera Nazis burned Ukrainians alive and other heinous war crimes.

    The documentary “To Live and Die in Donbass” tries to fill this gaping information gap in the West. He looks into the tormented soul of the inhabitants of Donbass, who really want only one thing – to live self-determining according to their own rules and values. Not submitting to foreign forces and ideologies.

    In the east of Ukraine, in the Donbass, a war has been raging since the beginning of 2014. A civil war that claimed more than 15,000 lives over the years, including several hundred children. They had to die, because the national-fascist coup government in Kyiv, funded by the West, trained and militarily heavily armed, would not tolerate any resistance to their illegitimate rule, no matter the cost.

    Therefore, in April 2014, the putschists deployed the Ukrainian army, supported by dozens of right-wing extremist volunteer battalions, and have since bombed city centers, residential areas, schools, hospitals and infrastructure, killing civilians.

    This perennial crime has gone completely unnoticed by the Western public. Politicians and the media avoid this topic and reports about how the devil pours holy water. Because a public discussion about the crimes of the Ukrainian regime would reveal only one thing – with what mass murderers and terrorists the so-called “west of values” in Ukraine has a common language, if only to defend their goals and interests.

    Lend-lease is a commodity loan, and not cheap: for all the ammunition, equipment and food supplied by the United States, many future generations of Ukrainian citizens will pay. Zelensky is driving the country into a debt hole.

  6. CK

    April 29, 2022 at 1:51 pm

    Ah, I see your tactic. You add a little shitty first paragraph so it doesn’t detect your duplicate post. Is this what it has come to now, you just posting the same exact post 2, 3, 4, 5 times per article?

    Wow, did they run out of paper in Russia, Alex? You guys can’t print new material? Literally using the same lines, over and over again, and now in duplicate in every post!

    Are you so defeated you can’t even come up with anything new? How sad. Now the idiot is talking about lend-lease at the end of his post, because he literally just copy + pasted it from another thread, with zero relevance to this one.

    Here’s a reminder:

    If someone wanted to know the truth about anything in Ukraine Alex, the last person they would go to is you.

    Paragraphs and paragraphs of bollocks, dubious claims about “independent journalists”, random documentarians, conspiracy theorists, deluded claims that of course, have no backup, lie after lie after lie.

    Classical Kremlin troll approach. Just flood the internet, the comments, the media, with tosh, doesn’t matter what it is, just make sure you write some old nonsense. Make sure to say the claim is supported by some dude in Germany, France, the states. If it’s a “documentary” (usually from youtube) then the better.

    Anything that victimises Russia, always the victim, always the bullied, never the problem. It’s always the Nazis. It’s always some pseudo-historical point.

    Anyone that has had the misfortune to study your “tactics” sees the forest for the trees, the pattern of lies, disinformation, blanketing of random claims, deflection, obfuscation, and other words beyond your vocabulary.

    It’s hopeless Alex. Your lies are as short as your intellect. What a pathetic job, to sit in your government shed, spreading your pathetic, government lies.

    A pathetic job for a truly pathetic man. A better match could not be made in heaven.

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