The United States has disclosed details of its latest military aid package to be used by Ukraine’s forces in the country’s east after Russian forces this week launched a full-scale offensive in the region.
The new $800m assistance package includes a new unmanned aerial weapons system, or drone, dubbed the Phoenix Ghost.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the drones, which are produced by a US company, Aevex Aerospace, are particularly well suited for the fight in Ukraine’s east, in the flat and open terrain of the region known as Donbas.
“Without getting into the specifications, but the kinds of things this drone can do lend itself well to this particular kind of terrain,” Kirby told reporters on Thursday.
“I think I’m just going leave it at that. But its purpose is akin to that of the Switchblade … which is basically a one-way drone, an attack drone. And that’s essentially what this is designed to do”.
Drones such as the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 and the US-made Switchblade have so far played a key role in the Ukrainian forces’ defence against the Russian invasion.
Not much else is known about the Phoenix Ghost drones, including their range and precise capabilities.
Kirby, however, did say that the drones, which have not yet been delivered to Ukraine, are equipped with onboard cameras.
“It can also be used to give you a sight picture of what it’s seeing, of course. But its principal focus is attack,” he said.
He added that the systems had been in development since before Russia’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine on February 24.
“But we will continue to move that development in ways that are attuned to Ukrainian requirements for unmanned aerial systems of a tactical nature in eastern Ukraine,” he added.
The Pentagon said training for the Ghost drones would be similar to the training on the Switchblade, but did not reveal any details about training plans or say how many Ukrainians would be trained on the new system.