US debates sending Reaper drones to Ukraine: Politico
The United States is undergoing a lot of deliberations on whether Ukraine should receive Reaper and Gray Eagle drones from the Air Force and the Army, with the Pentagon arguing against the affair.
The United States is having a lot of internal debates on whether or not it should send Reaper drones to Ukraine with the Air Force and the Pentagon divided over the matter, US newspaper Politico reported on Friday.
Reportedly, the Air Force insists that Ukraine should take its old Reaper drones as it has been wanting them out of its hangars for years, with the Pentagon pushing against the decision, arguing that if downed, the drones could jeopardize US capabilities if they fall in the wrong hands.
Spending months on the Pentagon's desk, the Pentagon is yet to sign the decision allowing Washington to send the drones away into Ukraine despite many analysts and high-ranking officials arguing that the UAVs would provide Ukraine with capabilities it has been seeking to possess since the outbreak of the war, especially since it has for months been demanding long-range arms.
The decision has been pending since March, a month after the war broke out, with the Pentagon raising the issue of sensitive tech being exposed to America's foes. People familiar with the matter told Politico that the Pentagon is concerned about the transfer of sensitive technologies to Ukraine, especially since some UAVs could be shot down and go into Russian hands.
The Ukrainians have offered various concessions to try and sway the US into giving away its older drones, pledging to only use the UAVs to launch air strikes on Russian positions on Ukrainian soil and to provide Washington with intelligence before launching strikes.
Though many deliberations are still taking place, the issue is not completely off the table, with General Atomics, the Pentagon's drone maker, pushing on to try and make either the Reaper or the Gray Eagle, the US Army's version of the Reaper, or even both, transferable to Ukraine.
Ukraine has long been asking for both or either drones as they would surely boost its capabilities on the battlefield, granting Kiev more capabilities when it comes to surveillance and conducting strikes, especially as Russia has vast advances on the eastern front, namely in the Donbass, rendering the Ukrainians heavily reliant on artillery and drones.
The UAV producer has long been trying to attempt to reach an agreement on the transfer of technologies to Ukraine, especially as the Air Force pushes to try and get rid of the older versions of its Reaper fleet for years to have enough resources that would allow it to possess better and newer tech.
The Air Force's most recent proposal to get the drones to Ukraine was made in the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, requesting that 100 UAVs be transferred to another government agency, freeing up some drones to be sent to Ukraine, though the Air Force would not elaborate which agency was its pick for the affair.
Republican Representative Ken Calvert, a senior member of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, said the Air Force had initially signed off on sending MQ-9s to Ukraine, but Washington did not like the proposal much.
The Republican proposed that the US train Ukrainians on using Gray Eagles and Reapers, noting that it would take around three to four months for training to be completed, which means Ukraine will probably not be using the drones before the first half of 2023 ends.
The Reapers were originally designed to support the US army during its invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan when the drones getting shot down was not much of a threat.
This comes after reports from US media said that as Washington and its western allies continue to pump weapons into Kiev, maintenance of the armaments is increasingly becoming a headache.
Weapons overused by the Ukrainian military are either being wiped out or damaged during the conflict.
At least one-third of the 350 US-made howitzers sent to Ukraine are already out of action, according to defense officials in the US. Howitzers fire 152-millimeter ammunition and date back to the Soviet era.
The Pentagon has also sent Ukraine 142 M777 howitzers, which is enough to supply 8 battalions, according to the report.
Citing US and Ukrainian officials, the report noted that dozens of howitzers were towed off to be repaired. Most of the damaged armaments could not be maintained on the field, and the Ukrainian military is not up for the job. Moreover, Pentagon's European Command finds maintaining the armaments a headache.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby confirmed in late November that the US had 'challenging' plans to provide aid to Ukraine in light of the coming winter time.
However, in regards to military activity, it is expected by the US to maintain operations and continue in Ukraine even during the winter time but a few certain activities will be put on hold due to the weather.
Moreover, in addition to burdening the US with requests for aid, Ukraine is selling weapons it acquired from its allies on the black market due to the Kiev forces' limited ability to use them because of their lack of training, logistical challenges, and the diminishing size of the Ukrainian armed force, according to former senior Pentagon adviser Karen Kwiatkowski.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu previously said the arms supplied by the West to Ukraine were ending up on the black market and spreading across West Asia. This validates the Pentagon's concerns, as sensitive technology being sent to Ukraine would not be the best for the US on the long term.