US officials are urging President Joe Biden to supply the Ukrainian military long-range drones that they say could allow it to break a blockade of Russian warships that prevent goods from crossing the Black Sea.
In a letter Tuesday, a bipartisan group of 16 senior lawmakers called for Biden to reconsider his administration’s June decision to not to sell four armed combat drones MQ-1C “Gray Eagle” of General Atomics after several Pentagon officials raised concerns that high-value radar and surveillance equipment on the drones could potentially end up in Russian hands.
Ukrainian military officials, the lawmakers noted, have repeatedly requested the drones that can carry four Hellfire missiles and are capable of flying long-range missions at high altitudes.
The training schedule for the weaponry is short (around 27 days, according to the letter) and the potential benefit to the Ukrainian offensive could be significant, particularly as its existing arsenal has been ineffective in breaking the blockade.
In the meantime, the Russian Black Sea fleet is still very vulnerable, with only seven ships, according to the Ukrainian army. British intelligence said in recent days that a successful attack on Russian ports could leave the entire flotilla open to attack.
“The long-term advantage of the MQ-1C is significant and has the potential to drive the strategic course of the war in Ukraine’s favor,” the letter reads.
“A Russian victory over Ukraine would significantly harm the security and prosperity of the United States, and allowing Ukraine to preserve its homeland remains a moral imperative and squarely in our national interests.”
However, US officials are believed to have been deterred from providing the missiles out of fear that they would not only fall into enemy hands, but be seen by Russia as an escalation of the US-led war.
“Technology security reviews are standard practice for the transfer of US defense items to all international partners,” Pentagon spokeswoman Sue Gough said after the initial sale was halted in June.
“All cases are reviewed individually on their own merits. Through the established process, national security concerns are escalated to the appropriate approval authority,” he added.
But there is also the question of whether the weapons are necessary for the defense of Ukraine, another aspect of the transaction that the Pentagon must consider before any arms sales.
Some Ukrainian fighter pilots, speaking on condition of anonymity to the media earlier this year, reportedly dismissed the viability of the “Grey Eagle” as a weapon of war, saying the weapons could only be used for reconnaissance missions. at long range and were impractical for use in active combat situations.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.