WASHINGTON — The war in Ukraine between the two neighboring countries [Ukraine and Russia] has been going on for eight months. During that time, hundreds of thousands of munitions, and thousands of land, sea, and air weapon systems were delivered to Ukraine. It’s no secret, judging by the daily reports, that a large number of them are outdated, near retirement, without the necessary upgrades, and most of the Soviet design. The latter is most often delivered to Ukraine from countries with former regimes close to the Soviet ideology, such as Poland, the Czech Republic [then Czechoslovakia], Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, the Baltic States, etc.
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Mr. Volodymyr Zelenskyi, President of Ukraine and Supreme Commander of the Ukrainian Army, has repeatedly stated in his speeches that his country needs modern weapons to successfully oppose the Russians and recover lost and temporarily occupied areas.
Ukraine still hopes to receive Western attack aircraft and more modern fighter jets. The same hopes are in Kyiv for Abrams or Leopard tanks. The lack of Western air defense systems [except NASAMS and IRIS-T, which are repurposed] to deal with the air attacks of Russian fighters and bombers is a problem that everyone sees, but no one is taking steps to solve.
And if these are the three main key problematic axes of Ukrainian defense, Kyiv cannot complain about the delivery of modern drones. It cannot be otherwise, given that this is the first war in which drones show their application, performance, and combat capability.
That’s why the news that Washington has developed drones specifically for Kyiv to take on the Russians is intriguing. The development and production time is no more than 12 months, as Washington [via a Pentagon statement] announced that Ukraine had placed an order for these drones before the start of the war, in 2021.
These are the Phoenix Ghost drones and they are made according to the requirements of the Ukrainians. There is little information about them. What is known and announced by the US is this: it is loitering munition. The drone was developed according to the design of Aevex Aerospace and, according to American specialists, it is similar in design to the already popular Switchblade drones produced by AeroVironment in Ukraine.
The Phoenix Ghost can conduct surveillance and search for its target for about six hours in the air. The drone is controlled by an operator but has an autonomous mode of operation. I.e. it can deliver the collected information to the base, or share it with its nearest friendly weapon system. The Phoenix Ghost carries ammo that explodes when it stops loitering and dives into the target.
The Ukrainian drone operates in day and night visibility. When operating in night conditions the drone uses its infrared sensors. Aevex Aerospace says their device is effective against moderately armored ground targets.
The first Phoenix Ghosts are already traveling to Ukraine. Just a day ago, on November 4th, the Pentagon announced that 1,100 units of this drone are included in the $400 million aid to Ukraine. A little-known fact is that when Ukraine stated its requirements for loitering munitions in 2021, the US Air Force was already fielding this drone. The drone was in the US Air Force’s Big Safari program. It was later decided that if its characteristics were changed, according to Ukrainian requirements, it would be perfectly suitable for the war being waged in eastern Ukraine.
At the moment, Ukraine has received only 120 units of it. This happened in May of this year when the training of Ukrainian operators to work with Phoenix Ghost was also completed. Because of the short time intervals and the war in Ukraine, these drones in May were also testing devices, as they directly engaged in the war. The new 1,100 units that have been produced so quickly since May are supposed to have updated features and upgraded components.
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