The Biden administration intends to sell four advanced drones, which can be armed with powerful Hellfire missiles, to Ukraine for their defense against Russian invaders, a report said.
The four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones have longer endurance time and range than the smaller aerial systems the Ukrainian army is currently using to defend itself since Russia’s invasion began on Feb. 24, Reuters reported, citing three sources familiar with the planned sale.
Congress can still block the exchange of the sophisticated drones, which would come after President Joe Biden in March nixed the transfer of fighter jets to Ukraine.
The Gray Eagle drones can fly up to 30 or more hours at a time and gather large amounts of data for intelligence purposes.
Each Gray Eagle drone can also be equipped with up to eight 100-pound Hellfire missiles — about double the weight of missiles carried by the current drones Ukraine is using.
The sale would put an advanced reusable US system capable of multiple deep strikes on the battlefield against Russia for the first time.
The Biden administration intends to notify Congress of the potential sale in the coming days, with a public announcement to follow, a US official said.
A Pentagon spokesperson said there was “nothing to announce” when asked about the sale.
The administration has already set aside money from the recently passed $40 billion Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative to fund both the sale and subsequent training for the drones, the US official and one of the sources said.
Training soldiers how to operate the Gray Eagle drones, made by General Atomics, typically takes months, drone expert Dan Gettinger told Reuters. However, the sources said one possibility recently proposed is to train experienced Ukrainian maintainers and operators in a handful of weeks.
Once the drone training is completed, Biden would then need to authorize supplying the drones with Hellfire missiles, the US official and one of the sources said.
The president announced Tuesday that the US will send advanced missile systems to Ukraine — reversing course from a day earlier when he said the US would not deliver the rockets to the war-torn country.