The Biden Administration plans to sell four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones to Ukraine, Reuters reported Wednesday, potentially giving Ukraine access to much larger, more sophisticated and more heavily armed drone technology than it previously had in its fight against Russia.
The administration is aiming to alert Congress to the potential sale in the coming days, after which lawmakers can choose to block the plan, Reuters reported, citing unnamed sources.
Ukraine has already received hundreds of drones, including AeroVironment’s Switchblade and the Turkish-made Bayraktar, but the Gray Eagle—produced by General Atomics—is faster and more heavily armed than these systems, and is reusable, unlike the Switchblade.
The Gray Eagle carries up to four roughly 100-pound Hellfire missiles, whereas the Bayraktar can carry as many as four 49-pound laser-guided “smart micro” bombs.
The long-range model of the Gray Eagle drone is 28 feet long and can fly for over 41 hours with a top speed of about 173 miles per hour, while the Bayraktar is 21 feet long and can fly for 27 hours at up to 138 miles per hour.
The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes.
Unmanned aerial vehicles have played a significant role in Russia’s war with Ukraine since the early days of the conflict. Within weeks of Russia’s invasion, the U.S. had provided Ukraine with 100 Switchblade drones, “kamikaze” aircraft that hover above a battlefield for up to 15 minutes before descending on a target and exploding with enough force to destroy a roomful of people or a pickup truck. To date, the U.S. has sent a total of at least 700 Switchblades to Ukraine. Ukraine has also used at least 36 Bayraktar drones. The Bayraktar’s influence on the war is commemorated by a humorous Ukrainian military song with the chorus “Bayraktar, Bayraktar.”
3,600 pounds. That’s the maximum gross takeoff weight of the Gray Eagle, according to manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical. That compares to a maximum takeoff weight of about 1,543 pounds for the Bayraktar.
“New Turkish Bayraktar Drones Still Seem To Be Reaching Ukraine” (Forbes)
“Ukraine’s Drones Are Peeling Back Russian Defenses On Infamous Snake Island” (Forbes)