The United States government plans to sell four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones to Ukraine as part of its war effort against the Russian Federation.
The MQ-1C Gray Eagle is large enough to carry an AGM-114 Hellfire missile, an air-to-surface missile that has been used in several high-profile drone strikes over the past couple of decades.
The move would be a massive boost to the Ukrainian side of the war, which has been using smaller and lesser powerful drones supplied by Turkey.
According to Dan Gettinger of the nonprofit Vertical Flight Society, “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.”
The MQ-1C Gray Eagle can carry up to eight Hellfire missiles, twice as many as the Turkish Bayraktar-TB2. It can also fly missions for over 30 hours.
The sale has been discussed by the Pentagon for weeks, the report says, and could be blocked by Congress.
A government official speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity stated that the Biden administration is expected to notify Congress in the coming days before making a public announcement, in accordance with federal law.
Although the usual training plan for these drones generally takes several months, a modified training plan may have been constructed. This would allow Ukrainian military officials to complete the training in just a couple of weeks.
President Biden also confirmed on Wednesday that the latest round of military aid being sent to Ukraine would include HIMARS multiple rocket launcher systems.
The Russian Federation has stated that any foreign-made weapons systems will be considered legitimate targets once they enter Ukrainian territory. It has also accused Western governments, such as the U.S., of “flooding” Ukraine with foreign weapons.
The news also comes as U.S. Secretary Blinken stated on Wednesday that the Ukrainian government had “given assurances” that it would not use the HIMARS, drones, and other weapons to attack targets on Russian soil.
The U.S. has insisted that Ukraine only use the weapons to defend its own territory, as attacking Russian cities would represent an unnecessary escalation in the conflict.
President Biden has repeatedly stated that his administration would not be providing long-range missiles to Ukraine.
Friday, June 3, marked the 100th day of fighting in the conflict, which began on February 24. Russia has stated its goals are “de-Nazifying” Ukraine and ensuring that the country never joins NATO. Ukraine’s alleged failure to uphold the terms of the Minsk Agreements signed by the two countries has also been provided as reasoning for Russia’s actions.