Will U.S. Troops Train Ukrainian Soldiers to Use Switchblade Drones? The United States and NATO allies have so far refrained from deploying troops to Ukraine over the political and military implications of NATO forces engaging in war with Russia that would come with such a move.
And while the United States expressed hesitance over the transfer of Poland’s MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, over similar concerns, the Pentagon is reportedly preparing to train the Ukrainian military to use recently-donated Switchblade drones.
On Wednesday, the Biden White House announced that a new $800 million military aid package to Ukraine will include a new delivery of Switchblade 300 and 600-series drones. The unmanned aerial vehicles are both designed to allow soldiers to deliver a munitions payload from a distance and with precision.
300-series drones can be fired from a tube that fits inside of a rucksack and crash land on targets chosen by drone operators. The larger 600-series drone is less compact but delivers a payload that can pierce armored vehicles.
What Did the Pentagon Say?
The Pentagon has stopped short of admitting that American soldiers or weapons experts will train the Ukrainian military but has admitted that Ukrainian soldiers will require training to use the weapons.
“We are looking at options for additional Switchblade training and where and when that might occur and how we would do that,” one official from the Department of Defense.
So far, Ukrainian soldiers have been able to operate the U.S.-built drones as a result of training that took place in the United States before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. Troops trained by U.S. soldiers prior to the invasion then share their knowledge of the equipment with other troops fighting in Ukraine. Other troops were present in the United States after the outbreak of the invasion.
On April 10, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with Ukrainian troops who had traveled to the United States for Switchblade drone training, before they returned to Ukraine to fight. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby also told reporters at the time that a “very small number” of Ukrainian soldiers who were present in the country since last year were being trained before they headed home.
“We took the opportunity — having them still in the country — to give them a couple of days’ worth of training on the Switchblade so that they can go back — and they will be going back soon, back home — to train others in the Ukrainian military,” Kirby said.
Some reporters claim sources revealed that training may be provided by U.S. troops on the eastern flank of NATO borders, meaning the troops will not enter Ukrainian territory.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.