According to an exclusive Reuters report, the Biden administration plans to sell Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that can be armed with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles for battlefield use against Russia.
“The sale of the General Atomics-made drones could still be blocked by Congress, the sources said, adding that there is also a risk of a last-minute policy reversal that could scuttle the plan, which has been under review at the Pentagon for several weeks,” the report said.
Ukraine has made extensive use of several smaller armed UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles), with the Bayraktar TB2 medium altitude long endurance (MALE) unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) of the Ukrainian forces emerging as the real star of the air war, inflicting Russian forces heavy losses, some of those caught on tape and circulated online.
As explained commenting the footage shot by TB2 taking out a Tor mobile short-range surface-to-air missile system (aka SA-15 “Gauntlet”) or supporting the air strike of two Ukrainian Su-27 on Russian facilities on the famous Snake Island in the Black Sea, all the videos (along with the accounts that TB2s allegedly helped decoy the Moskva’s defences) prove what a drone with a long-range FLIR and a wide array of weapons can do, in a “direct” or “indirect” way, in a modern conflict like the one in Ukraine.
But the Gray Eagle is larger and has a higher MTOW (Maximum Take-Off Weight): it can carry a wide array of sensors, both internally or in external pods, and, up to four AGM-114 missiles, each being double the weight of the Turkish MAM-L munitions carried by the TB2.
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Made by General Atomics, the Gray Eagle is the U.S. Army’s outgrowth of the MQ-1 Predator drone, sitting somewhat in between the MQ-1 and the larger MQ-9 Reaper in terms of capability and performance. It has a wingspan of 56 feet and a gross takeoff weight of 3,600 pounds or 4,200 pounds in an extended-range configuration. Flying at a top speed of 150 knots, it can reach an altitude of 25,000 feet and can stay aloft for more than 27 hours.
The sale is significant because it puts an advanced reusable U.S. system capable of multiple deep strikes on the battlefield against Russia for the first time.