Sale of US combat drones to Ukraine on hold – Reuters
The White House has put plans to sell four MQ-1C Gray Eagle combat drones to Kiev on hold due to fears that the technology could fall into Russian hands, Reuters reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter.
According to the report, the sale was initially approved by the White House, but later flagged by the Pentagon’s Defense Technology Security Administration (DTSA), which is tasked with keeping high-value technology out of enemy hands.
The officials are said to be concerned that the drone’s radar and surveillance equipment could be captured by the Russians. The issue had been overlooked, but came up during a meeting at the Pentagon late last week, Reuters said.
A source was quoted as saying that the radar and sensors could now potentially be replaced for something “less sophisticated” in order for the sale to go through, but that could take months to complete.
The Gray Eagle is the US Army’s newer version of the MQ-1 Predator attack drone, which has been widely used for airstrikes in the Middle East. Like the Predator, the Gray Eagle can carry Hellfire missiles.
The planned sale was reported in early June and has not been officially confirmed by the US.
The report of the delay comes as Ukraine continues to push the West to broaden and speed up the delivery of weapons to fend off the Russian offensive.
“If you think we should lose, just tell us directly: ‘We want you to lose.’ Then we will understand why you give us weapons at this level,” Mikhail Podoliak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, told the New York Times on Monday.
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.