KYIV, ($1=29.66 Ukrainian Hryvnias) — Ukraine is negotiating the purchase of heavy strike drones from General Atomics, which could change the balance of the war, BulgarianMilitary.com has learned, citing information and a statement from the Ukrainian online portal Mil.in.ua. The information was also confirmed by a statement made by a representative of General Atomics to the American publication Forbes.
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Last week, Ukrainian officials met in Washington with representatives of General Atomics, a California-based military drone maker, including the MQ-9 Reaper. Although the US government had to approve any sale, it is unlikely that such talks between Ukraine and the US defense contractor will be held without a green light from the US government.
“We now have planes ready for immediate delivery,” General Atomics spokesman Mark Brinkley told the paper. “With the support of the US government, these planes could be in the hands of Ukrainian military pilots for several days”.
General Atomics already has experience in the rapid delivery of MQ-9 to other countries. “We have worked with the US government in the past to send MQ-9 Reapers to a partner country in less than 30 days,” Brinkley said. “The logistical trail can be minimal, as well as much smaller than what people associate with the logistical trail of the American UAV.”
Although General Atomics does not mention specific models it may sell, the most likely candidate will be the Reaper, which, along with the earlier MQ-1 Predator, has been at the heart of US drone operations for more than 20 years.
MQ-9 could radically change the course of the war, where drones have become one of Ukraine’s most destructive weapons against Russia. The MQ-9 will have enough range to strike deep into Russia.
General Atomics claims that Ukraine will benefit from more modern American drones. “They will significantly expand the intelligence capabilities of all armed forces and provide many deadly strike capabilities that cannot be provided by smaller combat UAVs,” Brinkley said.
However, there are obstacles to any purchase of Ukrainian MQ-9. The most obvious is training and familiarity: the Ukrainian military is accustomed to operating Russian [actually Soviet] equipment, not Western developments, and American aircraft require annual training of UAV pilots.
However, General Atomics is confident that it will be able to train Ukrainian crews quickly. “Military pilots who are already familiar with UAVs can be trained to fly our planes quickly,” Brinkley said.
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