Military secret: why the Pentagon refuses to sell Ukraine attack drones

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Military secret: why the Pentagon refuses to sell Ukraine attack drones
Military secret: why the Pentagon refuses to sell Ukraine attack drones
24 June, 13:33ArmyPhoto: Соцсети
The U.S. Department of Defense has suspended a plan by the Joe Biden administration to sell Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones and MQ-9 Reaper attack drones.

Alexander Sychev

In fact, the verb "suspend" in Washington vocabulary means "refuse." It looks like the most high-tech weapons ever sent to Ukraine will not make it there. And it's not that the training of operators, even from among experienced pilots, will take time. Americans have learned to control all large drones remotely. The drone can fight in almost any corner of the planet, and its operator will sit thousands of kilometers from the place of hostilities in a comfortable chair under the air conditioner and sip cold Coke. It will be impossible to prove the direct participation of American GIs in the military operations in Ukraine, just like the current transfer of intelligence from the intelligence services of the United States and Western European countries.

The Pentagon Defense Technology Security Administration opposed the delivery of the Gray Eagle. The list of drone weapons that the White House decided to send to the Kyiv regime went from one Washington office to another for an unusually long time. A month ago, President Biden boasted that he had set up a mechanism to quickly approve any arms transfers with literally one click. The chain of approvals was shortened, and the surviving instances were threatened with a finger - not to slow down.

But the Defense Technology Security Administration of the Pentagon still dared to object. In her opinion, there is a danger that the drones will fall into the hands of the Russian military, and they will find out all the secret technologies. This consideration was not taken into account at the beginning of the consideration of the new lists. It was terrible to speak. The orders of the high officials were still too fresh in my memory. But a little time passed, everyone calmed down, and someone's voice rose in the silence. It happened at the end of last week, during a regular meeting at the Pentagon. Someone reminded me that the "Grey Eagle" is stuffed with all sorts of secrets, like a Christmas goose.

“U.S. security screening is standard practice in the transfer of U.S. defense products to all international partners,” Pentagon spokeswoman Sue Gough explained the delay. – All cases are considered individually. The decision on whether or not to continue the deal with Ukraine is now being considered by higher authorities in the Pentagon. The timing of any decision is unclear."

And the likelihood of top-secret items falling into the wrong hands is very high. On December 4, 2011, Iran demonstrated the American reconnaissance drone RQ-170 Sentinel ("Sentinel"). The Iranian military managed to take control of a reconnaissance vehicle over the city with the sonorous name of Kashmar, and then land it on one of their airfields. The statement of Iranian engineers that they intend to dismantle the "Sentinel" piece by piece and carefully examine everything, horrified Washington. By the way, after this incident, Iran took a big step in creating its flying drones.

Another "nightmare" happened in 2015. MQ-1C Gray Eagle crashed in the middle of the desert in Iraq. The Americans picked him up. In 2019, another drone, according to official reports, crashed near Baghdad (Iraq). And this time there were no technological leaks - the Iraqi authorities quickly found it and handed it over to the Americans.

But according to the Iranian authorities, the drone fell not for technical reasons, as the Americans reported. The Iranian military again took control of the drone, but this time they landed it unsuccessfully - on the territory of Iraq. The US military hastened to send another UAV to destroy it.

In the case of drones destined for Ukraine, the American magazine The Drive decided to get the opinion of two Ukrainian pilots, whom they call by the code names “Juice” and “Moon-Fish”. The latter said: "My opinion is this: knowing Russian air defense, I give you a 90 percent chance that the MQ-1C will be shot down on the first flight." Sok nodded in agreement and added: “Grey Eagle drones can be used for reconnaissance… But, in my opinion, it is very dangerous to use a drone in Ukraine. This is not Afghanistan."

Of course, it would be interesting to get the MQ-1C Gray Eagle, although there is hardly anything left in it that Russian designers do not know about. The drone has been flying since 2004, mass production has been established. And before that, the Americans were fiddling with the MQ-1 Predator (“Predator”), the smaller predecessor of the Eagle.

The shape is the same body, but slightly larger. Wingspan - 17 meters. The Gray Eagle is powered by a new Thielert Centurion diesel engine with a displacement of 1.7 liters. It develops a power of 135 horsepower and is based on Mercedes-Benz automobile engines, has a turbocharger, an electronic control system and can run on both diesel fuel and aviation kerosene. Almost one and a half ton car develops a maximum speed of 250 kilometers per hour and flies 400 kilometers for 36 hours at an altitude of up to 7.6 thousand meters.

Compared to the Predator, the Gray Eagle has a larger nose cone. It houses the moving ground target detection system (SAR-GMTI), built using synthetic aperture radar, and the AN / AAS-52 multispectral guidance system.

The payload of the drone is 360 kilograms. Four hardpoints can accommodate AGM-114 Hellfire II missiles, GBU-44/B Viper Strike guided bombs, and AIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missiles. The cost of each Gray Eagle drone is $10 million.

One solution to the task set by the presidents to send the Gray Eagles to Ukraine could be to replace the existing package of radars and sensors with something less advanced, sophisticated and secret. But it will take months to re-equip four MQ-1Cs, and the reconnaissance and combat qualities of the drone will noticeably decrease.

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