The Biden administration plans to sell Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that can be armed with four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles for the defense of its country against the Russian invasion, Reuters reported.
However, this could still be blocked by Congress, as the sale, which would be a huge upgrade in weapons for Ukraine, has been under review at the Pentagon for several weeks. The Biden administration is expected to notify Congress of the potential sale to Ukraine in the coming days with a public announcement expected after that, a U.S. State Department official said.
That official wouldn’t confirm or deny any defense transfers until Congress was notified. “As the conflict is changing and Ukraine’s defense needs change so too has our support for Ukraine’s defense,” the spokesperson said.
“We continue to closely consult with our Ukrainian partners to ensure U.S. military assistance is adapting as needed to deliver the critical capabilities for today’s fight, such as this week’s announcement of plans to transfer Multiple Launch Rocket Systems,” the spokesperson added.
MQ-1C Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial Systems:
The MQ-1C Gray Eagle Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), would be a huge upgrade for the Ukrainian military over the Bayraktar TB2 Turkish-made drone, as well as the smaller American-made Switchblade 300/600 drones that they’ve currently been using.
The MQ-1C carries more powerful internal sensors, as well as external podded systems such as radar and electronic warfare systems, than the TB2. Additionally, the AGM-114 Hellfire missiles carry much more firepower than the Turkish MAM-L model.
The Gray Eagle is “an advanced derivative of the Predator drone,” which has been used with great effect by U.S. Special Operations Forces that control them directly. The Gray Eagle is utilized for reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition; convoy protection; Improvised Explosive Device (IED), detection as well as providing live aerial imagery to ground patrols carrying also PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions) operations.
However, the Bayraktar TB2s have been outpunching their weight since the war began. Social media pages have been flooded with Ukrainian released videos of the TB2s wreaking havoc on Russian military forces.
MQ-1C Gray Eagle Drone SPECIFICATIONS:
- Length: 28 feet
- Wingspan: 56 feet
- Gross takeoff weight: 3,600 pounds (ER: 4,200 pounds)
- Maximum speed: 150 knots
- Ceiling: 25,000 feet
- Range: 2,500 nautical miles via satellite communications
- Endurance: 27-plus hours (ER: 40-plus hours)
- Payloads: Up to four HELLFIRE missiles
It will take time for Ukrainian forces to master training on the Gray Eagle. Training on the system conducted by General Atomics normally takes several months. However, there is a plan that would nominally train operators and maintenance crews in a matter of several weeks.
It also remains to be seen how the drone will be used. It has the range and endurance to hit targets deep inside Russia. The United States has been reluctant to supply Ukraine with any “offensive” weapons that could result in an escalation of hostilities.
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 10 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.