Phoenix Ghost: What we know about the US’s new drones for Ukraine
The Pentagon says the Phoenix Ghost tactical unmanned aerial system was designed mainly for striking targets.
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.
Russia-ukraine war: list of key events, day 609, kremlin says russian economy ready to handle more sanctions, russia claims destruction of three ukrainian boats off crimea, china’s wang yi to pay rare visit to us as two countries try to repair ties.
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.
Join PopSci+ to read science’s greatest stories. It’s just $1 per month »
What we know about the ‘Phoenix Ghost’ drones going to Ukraine
The new weapon system is said to be like the Switchblade drones. Here's how that kind of military UAV functions.
By Kelsey D. Atherton | Published Apr 28, 2022 3:00 PM EDT
Last week, the Department of Defense announced that it was sending “121 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems” to Ukraine. This release was part of a broader package of arms and aid for the country that has, since February 24, been fighting against invading Russian forces. It also came as a surprise: the Phoenix Ghost drone appeared to be a brand-new weapon system, one so far never reported or revealed to the public.
As reported by Breaking Defense, the Phoenix Ghost is a drone-missile similar to the Switchblade already fielded by Ukraine. The Pentagon initially claimed the Phoenix Ghost was developed for Ukraine after Russia’s February 24 invasion, but Pentagon Press Secretary Jack Kirby clarified the development timeline, saying instead that the Phoenix Ghost was created before the invasion, and was “developed for a set of requirements that very closely match what the Ukrainians need right now in Donbas,” as Breaking Defense reported.
While February 24 marks the start of the current war in Ukraine, Russia and Russian-backed separatists have occupied parts of the Donbas in eastern Ukraine since 2014, and Ukrainian forces had fought that war for eight years. While it is unlikely that a new drone requested by the Air Force was built specifically for the terrain of the Donbas, it is a conflict that military planners have long pointed to to justify new capabilities and weapons.
The public announcement of the drone from the DOD appears to have caught by surprise both the Air Force, which requested the system, and AEVEX Aerospace, the company that makes the Phoenix Ghost. When reached by reporters the day of the announcement, AEVEX had no public statement, and as of April 26, no news announcement about the drone had been posted to the company’s social media profiles or own site.
What is known about the Phoenix Ghost is hauntingly limited. The Pentagon described it as a “one-way” drone that will “deliver a punch,” and said it would be similar to operate for anyone who has already trained on a Switchblade or other drone system.
[Related: Everything to know about Switchblades, the attack drones the US is giving Ukraine ]
As The War Zone reports , Kirby told the press that Phoenix Ghost differs in scope of capability from the Switchblade, though it’s similar in scope.
“I’m gonna be loath to get into much more detail about the system at this point for classification purposes, but you can safely assume that, in general, it works,” Kirby told reporters . “It provides the same sort of tactical capability that a Switchblade does. Switchblade is a one-way drone if you will, and it clearly is designed to deliver a punch. It’s a tactical UAS, and Phoenix ghost is of that same category.”
If the Phoenix Ghost retains the tube-launched form of a Switchblade, it will likely offer the same kind of flexibility as a weapon that can be mounted on vehicles or carried by soldiers into combat. (Switchblades are fired from tubes and then can be guided or assigned to hit a target from a remote control station, letting the weapon fly and explode like a missile that can make sharp turns.) Areas to improve on Switchblade capabilities would likely be in the form of greater range, explosive payload, or flight time, any of which could enhance the ability of the drone to find and crash into enemy soldiers or vehicles.
[Related: The US is looking for a new anti-air missile ]
While AEVEX’s website is silent on the Phoenix Ghost, instead it shows off other services and components for sale like sensors and image processing. This includes tools that use drone cameras to map the surrounding terrain and navigational sensors . It’s the latter that might make an appearance in the Phoenix Ghost, as better navigation could lead to more accurate attacks, especially when the weapon is small enough that exact placement on the top armor of a vehicle matters. That, plus the ability to fly longer than existing Switchblades , could make the Phoenix Ghost useful in the kind of counter-offensive pushes currently undertaken by the Ukrainian military.
Fighting against Russian tanks and artillery in entrenched positions, ones dug in Ukrainian territory, will require Ukraine’s military to give up the advantages that defined its early war effort, like maneuvering out of the way of incoming tank columns before ambushing those same columns at night.
While the Phoenix Ghost’s design reportedly predates the start of the invasion, and just happens to have coincidentally matched the conditions of the war, the Pentagon is asking companies that make weapons if they have anything else that might be useful to deliver to the fight.
In a notice posted April 22, the Defense Logistics Agency announced it is seeking information “from across industry on weapons systems or other commercial capabilities related to air defense, anti-armor, anti-personnel, coastal defense, counter battery, unmanned aerial systems, and communications (e.g., secure radios, satellite internet).” The Switchblade, and likely the Phoenix Ghost, can be reasonably described as anti-personnel unmanned aerial systems, with the potential for models with larger explosive payloads to be anti-armor as well. Companies making or considering making other such weapons, to defeat everything from ships to artillery, have been invited by the Pentagon to see if their new weapon can prove useful in the hands of Ukraine’s military.
Kelsey D. Atherton is a military technology journalist who has contributed to Popular Science since 2013. He covers uncrewed robotics and other drones, communications systems, the nuclear enterprise, and the technologies that go into planning, waging, and mitigating war.
Like science, tech, and DIY projects?
Sign up to receive Popular Science's emails and get the highlights.
What is Phoenix Ghost, the secretive loitering munition the Pentagon is sending to Ukraine?
It’s only a matter of time before they go on the hunt.
By Max Hauptman | Published May 2, 2022 5:37 PM EDT
We know that drones have proven more effective than ever during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. From the Turkish-built Bayraktar drones to the smaller, tube-launched Switchblades , these unmanned aerial vehicles have been part of the reason that Russian tanks seem to keep getting decapitated .
Now there’s a new drone, dubbed the “Phoenix Ghost,” and seemingly designed for just the kind of fighting taking place in Ukraine, that is being sent by the United States as part of its latest shipments of arms and equipment .
The Phoenix Ghost has remained a bit shrouded in mystery. We don’t know much about its capabilities – how it can be launched, its range, or its payload — but we have been left with a few clues.
More than 120 of the drones have already been donated to Ukraine, which has been in development by the Air Force for employment in tactical situations, meaning it’s not designed strictly for surveillance. These new drones “ provide the same sort of tactical capability that a Switchblade does ,” a senior Pentagon official said on April 21. “I’m gonna be loath to get into much more detail about the system at this point for classification purposes, but you can safely assume that, in general, it works.”
In other words, the Ghost’s similarities to the Switchblade mean it’s lightweight and portable. Described as a “ flying camera robot with an explosive inside ” the Switchblade can be carried in a backpack and launched from a tube, similar to a mortar. The Switchblade 300 weighs just 5.5 pounds. The 600 model can be equipped with a larger payload and weighs 33 pounds. They’re both what can be described as a loitering munition, both a “ flying scout and an armed weapon .”
A senior defense official said on Monday said the drone was in development by the Air Force before the war in Ukraine. “And, as we began to look across the department at programs that were in various stages of development, we realized that some of the very things that we were developing the Phoenix Ghost to do would be very useful to the Ukrainians.” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby mentioned last month that the original US requirements for the drone “very closely” matched what Ukrainians needed to battle Russians in eastern Ukraine.
On Monday, a senior defense official said that Ukraine had “about a fifth” of those drones in Ukraine, and that, “we are getting them trained on them now.”
Developed by AEVEX Aerospace, this new drone is just the latest iteration of simple, suicide drones, not much different from something you could buy off the shelf, being prepped for use on the battlefield. They’ve been developed by Turkey and used by drug cartels in Mexico . They’re also being tested by the Army right now as part of “ drone swarms ” that can overwhelm targets.
On Monday, a senior defense official said that “just yesterday, 20 Ukrainian soldiers commenced a weeklong training course on the Phoenix Ghost.” It’s only a matter of time before they go on the hunt.
The latest on Task & Purpose
- The Navy’s top enlisted sailor tried to lift the spirits of a beleaguered crew. He didn’t
- What this old Russian tank tells us about the invasion of Ukraine
- Navy’s top enlisted sailor tells crew dealing with string of deaths that his answers won’t ‘make you real happy’
- The Air Force is trusting the internet to name its ridiculous new cybersecurity mascot
- A military housing company kept committing fraud after pleading guilty to fraud , Senate report finds
Want to write for Task & Purpose? Click here . Or check out the latest stories on our homepage.
Max Hauptman is a former breaking news reporter at Task & Purpose. He previously worked at The Washington Post as a Military Veterans in Journalism Fellow, as well as covering local news in New England. Contact the author here.
Subscribe to Task & Purpose Today
Get the latest in military news, entertainment and gear in your inbox daily.
- Shop Back Issues
- Aircraft For Sale
- Learn To Fly
- The Ultimate FLYING Giveaway
- I.L.A.F.F.T. Podcast
- Modern Flying
- The New Owner
- Avionics and Apps
- Retrofit avionics
- Oem avionics
- Aviation Gear
- Pilot supplies
- Aviation apps
- Flight School Guide
- Learn to Fly
- What A CFI Wants You To Know
- Flight planning
U.S. Sending 580 Phoenix Ghost Drones to Ukraine
The tactical combat drones were rapidly developed earlier this year by the u.s. air force specifically for the ukrainian fight..
The 'ghost' drone is similar to the Switchblade drone above. [Courtesy: U.S. Department of Defense]
The U.S. is sending up to 580 Phoenix Ghost tactical drones to Ukraine as part of a $270 million aid package that also includes weapons systems, vehicles, and ammunition, defense officials announced Friday.
The military aid includes a Presidential Drawdown of up to $175 million—the 16th aid package since last August—and $95 million in Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) funds, acting Pentagon Press Secretary Todd Breasseale said. USAI spending marks the beginning of a contracting process directly between Ukraine’s Armed Forces and industry.
The U.S. sent the first shipment of the “ghost” drones to Ukraine in April. The AEVEX Aerospace -manufactured combat drones were already in development prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and were rapidly developed earlier this year by the U.S. Air Force specifically for the Ukrainian fight, a DOD spokesperson said at the time.
- READ MORE: U.S. To Send ‘Ghost’ Combat Drones To Ukraine
The drones are similar to the Switchblade combat drones , which are short-range piloted missiles launched from a tube. The one-way attack drones are equipped with optics to provide a sight picture of the ground. If they’re successful, they don’t fly back.
“The Ukrainians have been making excellent use of the Phoenix Ghost system,” a senior defense official said. “This action allows us to go out and procure from industry additional capability. That’s where USAI is different from drawdown—this is actually a procurement action. And with the Phoenix Ghost system, what we’ll be able to do is ensure steady deliveries of this capability starting in August to ensure that the Ukrainian Armed Forces have a continual supply of this capability.”
To date, the U.S. has committed more than 700 Switchblade drones, about 700 Phoenix Ghost drones, 20 Mi-17 helicopters, Puma drones, as well as anti-aircraft systems, radars , field equipment and electronic jamming equipment.
The latest aid package increases the U.S. security assistance to Ukraine to $7.6 billion since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
- R EAD MORE: Ukrainian Soldiers Trained in U.S. To Use Switchblade Drones
More From Military
Dod notes 'significant threat' of escalation amid israel-hamas war, u.s., japan, south korea conduct trilateral b-52 escort exercise, royal air force prepares protector rg mk1 uav for testing, veterans history project collecting wasps’ heroic stories, lockheed martin drops out of air force 'bridge tanker' competition, nato ramps up maritime air patrols in baltic sea, new to flying, already have an account.
- Expo City Dubai
- UAE in Space
- Saudi Arabia
- Arab Showcase
- The Americas
- Travel and Tourism
- Road to Net Zero
- Fashion & Beauty
- Home & Garden
- Things to do
- Art & Design
- Film & TV
- Music & On-stage
- Pop Culture
- Combat Sports
- Horse Racing
- Trending Middle East
- Beyond the Headlines
- Culture Bites
- Pocketful of Dirhams
- Books of My Life
- Iraq: 20 Years On
- Business Extra
What is the Phoenix Ghost killer drone the US is giving Ukraine?
Latest 'kamikaze'-style drone rapidly developed for use in ukraine as outnumbered troops try to punch back against russian forces.
File footage released by a Ukrainian commander purportedly showing a February 27 Ukrainian drone strike against a Russian missile system. Reuters
Live updates: follow the latest news on Russia-Ukraine
Part of President Joe Biden’s latest package of military aid for Ukraine is a new type of killer drone known as the Phoenix Ghost that the US Air Force quickly developed and is well-suited for use by Ukrainian forces as they combat Russia, the Pentagon said.
The new weapon is similar in capability to the Switchblade drones the US has already supplied to the Ukrainian military, a senior US defence official told Pentagon reporters.
Switchblades are known as “kamikaze” drones, as they are designed to make a one-way trip to their target, exploding on impact.
Joe Biden details new military aid for Ukraine
The Phoenix Ghost “provides the same sort of tactical capability that a Switchblade does", the official said.
“It clearly is designed to deliver a punch.”
The Pentagon will ship more than 121 of the new Phoenix Ghost drones to Ukraine, Mr Biden announced on Thursday.
It will be up to the Ukrainian authorities where and how to deploy them, the Pentagon added.
The US defence official had "no idea" how the drone got its name and said “minimal training is required” on the Phoenix Ghosts, referencing slight differences in capability compared to the Switchblade, without providing details.
The drones were built by AEVEX Aerospace, Bloomberg reported, and were “rapidly developed by the air force in response specifically to Ukrainian requirements", Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
Switchblades extend the range of attack on Russian vehicles and units to beyond the sight of the user.
That gives them an advantage over the guided heat-seeking missiles the Ukrainians have used against Russian tanks.
On Friday, Mr Kirby said the drone was not specifically developed for Ukraine but its features meet many of the Ukrainian military's needs.
"It was already under development by the US Air Force and the kinds of capabilities that we were developing it for happened to be very appropriate to the kind of fighting that that we anticipate is going to go on in the Donbas region," Mr Kirby said.
Service members of pro-Russian troops stand in front of a destroyed building in Mariupol Pro-Russian troops, including fighters of the Chechen special forces unit, survey the destroyed administration building of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol, Ukraine. Reuters
View from DC
The inside scoop from The National’s Washington bureau
U.S. is letting Ukraine field-test mysterious new Phoenix Ghost drones
- Newsletter sign up Newsletter
Ukraine has been making brutally effective use of drones against Russian invading forces, especially Turkish-made Bayraktar drones and, more recently, smaller and more portable Switchblade "kamikaze" drones . A senior Pentagon official said Monday that the U.S. has delivered to Ukraine a "small proportion" of a promised batch of 121 new Phoenix Ghost drones and just finished training 20 Ukrainian soldiers on how to use the mysterious new aerial weapons.
"The Phoenix Ghost has remained a bit shrouded in mystery," Task and Purpose notes ."We don't know much about its capabilities — how it can be launched, its range, or its payload." But the Pentagon has provided some clues, and the senior defense official added some new details Monday.
"The Phoenix Ghost was in development by the Air Force before the war in Ukraine, and as we began to look across the department at programs that were in various stages of development, we realized that some of the very things that we were developing the Phoenix Ghost to do would be very useful to the Ukrainians," the Pentagon official said . "As we looked at the capabilities of it, it was clear that it could be useful to them in the kind of fighting that they're doing in the Donbas." And yes, "it can be used for anti-armor capabilities," the official said.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters
From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.
A Pentagon official previously said the Phoenix Ghost drones "provide the same sort of tactical capability that a Switchblade does," meaning they are lightweight and portable, and "can be described as a loitering munition, both a 'flying scout and an armed weapon,'" Task and Purpose explains . CNN's Tom Foreman ran down some of what we know about the Phoenix Ghost drones Monday night.
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.
Sign up to our 10 Things You Need to Know Today newsletter
A free daily digest of the biggest news stories of the day - and the best features from our website
Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com , and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine . He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter .
Instant opinion Opinion, comment and editorials of the day
By The Week Staff Published 24 October 23
Talking Point Parents have a right to know what their children are being taught in the classroom, says minister
The Explainer Ban on 'no-fault' evictions delayed indefinitely amid opposition from landlords and Tory rebels
By Harriet Marsden, The Week UK Published 24 October 23
By Peter Weber Published 6 September 23
In Depth How the Kremlin's plan for a quick conquest turned into a quagmire
By Peter Weber Published 25 August 23
By Peter Weber Published 18 August 23
Talking Point Will it hurt Putin's war or is it merely symbolic?
By Justin Klawans Published 16 August 23
By Justin Klawans Published 22 July 23
By Peter Weber Published 20 July 23
By Brigid Kennedy Published 7 July 23
By Peter Weber Published 27 June 23
- Contact Future's experts
- Terms and Conditions
- Advertise With Us
The Week is part of Future plc, an international media group and leading digital publisher. Visit our corporate site . © Future US, Inc. Full 7th Floor, 130 West 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036.
Mysterious ‘Phoenix Ghost’ Suicide Drones Headed To Ukraine
We don’t know the configuration of the ‘Phoenix Ghost,’ only that a company not known for making drones is supplying them.
A mysterious new loitering 'kamikaze drone' called Phoenix Ghost, developed by the U.S. Air Force specifically for Ukraine's war against Russia, is part of the latest U.S. security assistance package announced on April 21.
The loitering munition is an all-new platform developed quickly, with input from Ukraine, to address the nation's military requirements as it tries to blunt Russia’s renewed assault in the Donbas region, according to Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby.
“This was rapidly developed by the Air Force in response specifically to Ukrainian requirements,” Kirby told reporters on April 21. More than 121 — an oddly specific, yet mysteriously vague number — Phoenix Ghosts are headed to Ukraine along with the newest $800 million aid package announced Thursday.
Phoenix Ghost provides similar, “but not [the] exact," capabilities as the AeroVironment Switchblade tube-launched loitering munition, Kirby said during a call with reporters on April 21, the 57th day of Russia's war on Ukraine. There are differences “in the scope of capability for the Phoenix Ghost,” but what those differences are is unclear. It will be useful against different types of targets, he said.
Switchblade is a tube-launched loitering munition that carries both a camera and a warhead. It can be used for surveillance or to attack targets of opportunity. It can target a fixed position without anyone manually piloting it. Much more information on Switchblade and a range of suicide drones and their use in modern warfare is available here .
The U.S. already has already donated 400 Switchblade loitering munitions to Ukraine. The first shipment of 100 mostly made it to the country last week, when a further shipment of 300 was announced . Switchblades come in multiple sizes for use against different targets — the -300 and far more powerful, anti-armor-capable -600 model. The latter is in very short supply as it was just introduced into U.S. stockpiles. In many cases, the deadly drones can be reused for surveillance missions if they are not employed as kinetic weapons against enemy forces.
Asked how the Phoenix Ghost got its name, Kirby said “I have no idea. I have no idea. I do not know.”
“I'm gonna be loath to get into much more detail about the system at this point for classification purposes, but you can safely assume that, in general, it works,” Kirby said. “It provides the same sort of tactical capability that a Switchblade does. Switchblade is a one-way drone if you will, and it clearly is designed to deliver a punch. It's a tactical UAS, and Phoenix ghost is of that same category.”
Later in the day, Kirby said the system, developed under a U.S. military contract with AEVEX Aerospace, was already in development before the current conflict "for a set of requirements that very closely match what the Ukrainians currently need in Donbas."
AEVEX describes itself as providing end-to-end aircraft and sensor system design, provision, integration, operations, sustainment, and data analysis. The War Zone has reached out to AEVEX for more information on its involvement in developing the drone and the design of the aircraft itself, but has not heard back. The company told Breaking Defense it had "no comment on the issue."
AEVEX does not appear to be an unmanned systems manufacturer. It’s possible the company acted as a prime contractor to develop and integrate components onto an existing UAS, such as control technologies and a warhead. It's also possible it is working as a domestic contractor lead for an imported or licensed design .
In November 2021, AEVEX was awarded a contract with the U.S. General Services Administration under the ASTRO program that encompasses everything involving manned, unmanned, or optionally manned platforms and robotics. That 10-year contract has a $2 billion ceiling and includes use of the company’s test and training range in Roswell, New Mexico, rapid prototyping services, and FAA Part 145 certified repair station for the “design, engineering, and integration of sensors and special mission aircraft, manned and unmanned,” AEVEX CEO Brian Raduenz said in a statement at the time of the contract award. It is not clear whether the development of Phoenix Ghost was performed under that contract, but the scope of work would include such integration of unmanned systems. The contract will "significantly improve our ability to support innovative R&D and data management efforts across aviation for our warfighters operating in all domains,” Raduenz said.
Most tube-launched expendable drones can be deployed from the ground, a vehicle, a seagoing vessel, or an aircraft and are controlled by individual troops. Some loitering UAS have been launched by larger drones , though that is an advanced capability. A Switchblade-300 weighs about 5.5 pounds and has a 10-kilometer range with 15 minutes of endurance cruising at 63 miles per hour. The larger 600 series can fly for 40 minutes, weighs 55 pounds — including a 33-pound warhead — and has a threshold range of about 40 kilometers. We really don't know if this is tube-launched or even a converted multi-rotor type or something else.
The new system should be readily absorbed by existing Ukrainian forces but will require some training, Kirby said.
“It will require some minimal training for knowledgeable UAS operators to be able to use it and we're going to be working through those training requirements directly with the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” he said.
While the exact design of Phoenix Ghost is unknown, suicide drones of many types have been highly effective in modern conflict and need not be highly complex systems. Once again, this new system could be an armed quadcopter , for all anyone knows. Armed commercially available unmanned systems are useful, easily deployed and could be delivered en mass relatively cheaply, as The War Zone Editor-in-Chief Tyler Rogoway mused in March. In fact, enemies of the U.S. and other nefarious actors around the globe have proven this for over five years, converting off-the-shelf hobby and commercial drones into effective killing machines. Even Ukraine is using improvised armed drones on the battlefield today. This is a critical area the U.S. has fallen behind in due to a lack of demand from the DoD, export restrictions, and, some would argue, a social undercurrent that has resisted the weaponization of very low-end unmanned technologies.
The Ghost Phoenixes are part of a larger $800 million security assistance package announced by the White House on April 21 that also includes 72 more 155mm Howitzers and the same number of vehicles to tow them, 144,000 artillery rounds, field equipment, and spare parts. Together with last week’s $800 million aid package , the U.S. has pledged 90 pieces of artillery to Ukraine, along with armored vehicles, tactical drones, anti-tank guided missiles, counter-battery and air-defense radars, helicopters, and more.
As the conflict drags on, the U.S. military is tailoring the capabilities included in each defense assistance package to what Ukrainian forces say they need in the field, Kirby said.
“This addition to the PDA packages is very much an outgrowth, a very tangible outgrowth, of … the constant conversation we're having with the Ukrainians about what they need and this is a great example of adapting to their needs in real-time,” Kirby said.
President Joe Biden met with Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal this morning to discuss recent developments in the war with Russia and to preview the additional $800 million in security assistance and $500 million in economic support announced later in the day. Shmyhal also met with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon.
In his speech announcing the new aid package, Biden said ongoing aid will be tailored to the fight in the Donbas, where Russian armor and artillery are at a greater advantage .
“The United States and our Allies and partners are moving as fast as possible to continue to provide Ukraine the forces that they need — the weapons they need … and the equipment they need — their forces need to defend their nation,” Biden said from the White House.
Beginning with last week’s announcement of artillery and armored vehicles, U.S. military assistance is now “responsive to Ukraine’s needs and tailored to support the intensified fighting in the Donbas region, which is a different war than in other places because ... topographically it’s different. It’s flat, it’s not in the mountains, and it requires different kinds of weapons to be more effective,” Biden said.
It now apparently requires bespoke weapon systems developed in the U.S. with Ukrainian assistance in the form of the Phoenix Ghost drone.
Contact the author: [email protected]
April 21, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news
By Travis Caldwell , Andrew Raine , George Ramsay, Lianne Kolirin, Ivana Kottasová , Adrienne Vogt and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN
US Air Force designed drone system specifically to meet Ukrainian requirements, Pentagon says
From CNN's Michael Conte
The US Air Force developed the new Phoenix Ghost drone system to meet Ukrainian needs, according to a Pentagon spokesperson.
The new US aid package for Ukraine includes more than 121 Phoenix Ghost systems, the Pentagon said.
“This was rapidly developed by the Air Force in response specifically to Ukrainian requirements," said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby in off-camera remarks to reporters.
“It provides similar capabilities to the Switchblade series of unmanned systems — similar capabilities, but not exact,” Kirby said. “There’s differences in the scope of capability for the Phoenix Ghost.”
But Kirby would not say what the differences in capabilities are between the Switchblade and Phoenix Ghost systems.
Kirby also said the new system will require “some minimal training for knowledgeable UAS operators,” and that the US Defense Department is “working through” those requirements with the Ukrainian military.
Additionally, concerning the howitzers in the new aid package that will be used to outfit five additional Ukrainian battalions, Kirby said they are being provided per Ukrainian needs for fighting in the Donbas region that the department expects to continue “over days and weeks ahead.”
Zelensky thanks Biden for additional support for Ukraine
From CNN's Betsy Klein
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked US President Joe Biden for his announcements of additional military and economic aid for Ukraine Thursday.
“I’m grateful to @POTUS & [American flag emoji] people for the leadership in supporting the people of Ukraine in the fight against Russian aggression. This help is needed today more than ever! It saves the lives of our defenders of democracy and freedom and brings us closer to restoring peace in [Ukrainian flag emoji],” Zelensky said in a tweet .
Earlier, Biden announced $500 million in US assistance for the Ukrainian government and $800 million in military aid .
The $800 million package would include heavy artillery and drones, along with ammunition, Biden said.
And the $500 million in funding can be used by Ukraine’s government “to stabilize their economy, to support communities that have been devastated by the Russian onslaught, and pay the brave workers that continue to provide essential services to the people of Ukraine,” Biden said.
Ukraine's parliament extends martial law by another 30 days
From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Lviv
The Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, approved the extension of martial law in the country by another 30 days.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared martial law across the country following the Russian invasion on Feb. 24.
Biden says it's "questionable" whether Russia controls Mariupol
From CNN's Allie Malloy
US President Joe Biden said Thursday it was “questionable” whether Russian President Vladimir Putin controls Mariupol, Ukraine.
“It’s questionable whether he does control Mariupol,” Biden said adding, “There is no evidence yet that Mariupol is completely fallen.”
Biden also called on Putin to allow humanitarian aid into Ukraine to allow those trapped inside the steel plant to be able to get out.
CNN reported Thursday that Putin has scrapped plans to storm the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, saying those who choose to surrender should be treated in accordance with international conventions. Putin ordered forces to blockade the plant "so that a fly can't get through."
Ukrainian forces are continuing to resist attacks on the plant and ignoring Russian calls to surrender. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the country's forces don’t have enough "serious and heavy" weapons to defeat the Russian army in Mariupol as "thousands" of civilians remain trapped inside.
Biden says Russian offensive will be "more limited in terms of geography but not in terms of brutality"
While US President Joe Biden announced an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine, he said Russian President Vladimir Putin will refocus his invasion of Ukraine on the eastern part of the country.
"Now we have to accelerate that assistance package to help prepare Ukraine for Russia's offensive that's going to be more limited in terms of geography but not in terms of brutality," Biden said in remarks from The White House.
Biden also reflected on the war so far, and said Putin is still trying to break up Western unity against the war. He said Putin will "never succeed in dominating and occupying all of Ukraine."
"We don't know how long this war will last but as we approach the two-month mark, here's what we do know, Putin has failed to achieve his grand ambitions on the battlefield. After weeks of shelling Kyiv — Kyiv still stands. President Zelensky and his democratic-elected government still remain in power," Biden said.
"And the Ukrainian Armed Forces, joined by many brave Ukrainian civilians, have thwarted Russia's conquest of the country. They've been bolstered from day one by an unstinting supply of weapons, ammunition, armor, intelligence, from the nations of the free world led by us, the United States," the US President said.
"As Russia continues to grind out the military advances ... and the brutality against Ukraine, Putin is banking on us losing interest. That's been my view, you've heard me say this from the beginning, he was counting on NATO, European Union, our allies and Asia, cracking, moving away. He's betting on Western unity will crack. He's still betting on that. Once again, we're going to prove him wrong. We will not lessen our resolve," he continued.
Biden announces $500 million in Ukrainian government aid and new program for refugees
US President Joe Biden announced a separate tranche of $500 million in US assistance for the Ukrainian government in addition to the $800 million in military aid he pledged Thursday.
“In addition to bolstering Ukraine's resistance on the battlefield, we're also demonstrating our support for the people of Ukraine. Today, the United States is announcing that we intend to provide an additional $500 million in direct economic assistance to the Ukrainian government,” Biden said in remarks in the Roosevelt Room.
The new aid brings the total US economic support for Ukraine, the President said, to $1 billion in the past nearly two months since Russia’s invasion.
The $500 million in funding can be used by Ukraine’s government “to stabilize their economy, to support communities that have been devastated by the Russian onslaught, and pay the brave workers that continue to provide essential services to the people of Ukraine,” Biden said.
He also announced “Unite for Ukraine,” a new effort to support Ukrainians seeking to come to the US amid the ongoing, brutal invasion, with approximately two-thirds of Ukrainian children displaced.
“I'm announcing a program, ‘Unite for Ukraine,’ a new program to enable Ukrainians seeking refuge to come directly from Europe to the United States. This new humanitarian parole program will complement the existing legal pathways available to Ukrainians, including immigrant visas and refugees processing,” Biden said.
He described it as “an expedient channel for secure legal migration from Europe to the United States for Ukrainians,” noting that those migrants must have a US sponsor, including a family or non-governmental organization.
“This program will be fast, it’ll be streamlined, and it will ensure the United States honors its commitment to to the people Ukraine and need not go through our southern border,” he said.
Biden said the United States' new actions were intending to send a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin as he continues his violent incursion into a third month.
“Our unity with our allies and partners and our unity with the Ukrainian people is sending an unmistakable message to Putin: He will never succeed in dominating and occupying all of Ukraine. He will not,” he said.
Biden says he'll make formal request to Congress next week on second supplemental funding package for Ukraine
From CNN's Kevin Liptak
US President Joe Biden announced Thursday he will make a formal request next week for Congress to approve a second supplemental funding package to aid Ukraine.
Biden said he expected Congress to “move and act quickly” on the package.
“In order to sustain Ukraine for the duration of this fight, next week I’m going to have to be sending to Congress a supplemental budget request to keep weapons and ammunition flowing without interruption to the brave Ukrainian fighters and continue to deliver economic assistance to the Ukrainian people,” Biden said in remarks from the White House.
Biden also made a point to thank American taxpayers and military for their contributions Ukraine.
In speaking about the importance of getting aid to Ukraine, Biden took liberties on a famous phrase by former US President Teddy Roosevelt, telling reporters, “Sometimes we will speak softly and carry a large javelin, because we’re sending a lot of those in as well.”
Biden announces ban on Russian-linked ships in US ports
US President Joe Biden said Thursday the US will ban Russian-affiliated ships from American ports in a bid to further isolate Moscow amid its invasion of Ukraine.
"No ship that sailed under the Russian flag, or that is owned or operated by Russian interests, will be allowed to dock in the United States port or access our shores," Biden said in remarks at the White House.
He said it was "another critical step" the US was taking alongside its allies in Canada and Europe "to deny Russia the benefits of international economic system that they so enjoyed in the past."
Biden says war in Ukraine is at a "critical window"
US President Joe Biden said he spoke with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, who was at the White House this morning meeting with US national security adviser Jake Sullivan, along with Ambassador Oksana Markarova.
"We had a good discussion. I talked about what I'm about to tell you about today, as well as he was thanking the American people for their support, understands it's significant, and we talked about keeping everyone together in terms of Europe, European Union and others, in the effort to stop Putin's brutality," Biden said.
Biden said "enormous credit" should be given to agencies on the ground exposing "war crimes."
"It's so clear to the whole world now. Now [Russia has] launched and refocused their campaign to seize new territory in eastern Ukraine, and we're in a critical window now of time where they're going to set the stage for the next phase of this war," Biden continued.
The US and its allies are "moving as fast as possible" to provide weapons to Ukrainian forces to defend their country, he said, announcing another $800 million in military assistance.
- Main content
A possible future mission for the US's secretive Phoenix Ghost and Switchblade drones? Hunting Russian nukes
- Russia has devoted increasing military resources to Ukraine but maintains an outpost in Kaliningrad.
- Perched on the Baltic, nuclear and conventional forces in Kaliningrad can strike deep into Europe.
- Loitering munitions that Ukraine is using may be useful for tracking Russian missiles in Kaliningrad.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine in February 2022 has pushed tensions between Moscow and NATO to their highest level in decades
Over the past 18 months, there have been close calls along the alliance's borders with the two warring countries, and NATO and Russian aircraft have tangled over the Black Sea. The tense environment has been punctuated by Russian threats of nuclear strikes against the West in response to NATO's military support for Ukraine.
While the world has focused on the fighting in Ukraine, Russian forces are still present in Kaliningrad, Russia's exclave on the Baltic Sea, where Moscow has based its Baltic Fleet, stationed ground troops, and stored nuclear weapons .
In a future war, the secretive drones the US has supplied to Ukraine — the Phoenix Ghost and Switchblade — could get a new mission: hunting Russian nukes in Kaliningrad.
Drones vs. nukes
Kaliningrad is a key military outpost sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland on the Baltic coast. It has long hosted both nuclear and conventional forces, though Russia's military has moved several units based there to Ukraine since the fighting started last year.
Kaliningrad's location allows the Kremlin to threaten several NATO members with long-range weapons, and it could be a base from which Russian forces could interfere with a NATO response to a clash with Russia.
While chances of a war with Russia seem low, Kaliningrad still represents "a major threat" to NATO, and the alliance need to invest in troops and weapons to neutralize Russian forces there in case of a conflict, William DiRubbio, a second lieutenant in the US Air Force, wrote in a recent article published by the journal of the Royal United Services Institute, a British think tank.
DiRubbio argues that NATO could use special-operations forces to prevent Russia from launching the tactical nuclear weapons it has stored in Kaliningrad by targeting the Iskander ballistic missiles that would likely carry those weapons.
Going after the Russia's nuclear command-and-control infrastructure "could have immense deterrence and escalatory ramifications" and should be avoided, as should targeting the nuclear warheads themselves, but taking out the delivery platform would thwart Russian nuclear launches, according to DiRubbio.
Since Iskander missiles are mobile, special-operations troops would be "the best method to deal with them," DiRubbio writes, citing missions by the US Army's Delta Force and its British cousin, the Special Air Service, to hunt down and destroy Iraq's Scud missiles during the Gulf War as precedent.
NATO forces could use loitering munitions — drones designed to linger near a target before crashing into and destroying it — for such a mission in Kaliningrad. "A focus should also be on the training of these forces with the Phoenix Ghost and Switchblade drones to assist them in their search and destroy efforts," DiRubbio writes.
Special operators are trained to undertake such difficult missions, and one could see a Delta Force squadron armed with loitering munitions, also known as "kamikaze drones," infiltrating Kaliningrad in order to do it. "To enable quick action in the case of conflict, NATO ought to begin investment in small staging camps near Poland and Lithuania's respective border with Kaliningrad," DiRubbio writes.
Switchblade and Phoenix Ghost
The US has sent tens of billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine and provided thousands of weapons, ranging from main battle tanks down to one-way attack drones, like the Switchblade and Phoenix Ghost, that a few soldiers can carry and operate.
With relatively short range, these drones are designed to take out relatively small targets on the battlefield, whether its a few troops in a trench or an armored vehicle. The US has provided a few hundred of those two drones to Ukraine, including both version of the Switchblade.
The Switchblade 300 packs an explosive charge roughly equivalent to a Claymore anti-personnel mine to take out infantry targets. It is fired from a mortar-like tube and has a range of 6 miles, though it can stay in the air for just 15 minutes. The Switchblade 600 is designed for heavy-duty targets, like tanks, and packs an explosive charge similar to that of a Javelin anti-tank missile . It has a range of 24 miles and can stay in the air for about 40 minutes.
Little is known about the capabilities of the Phoenix Ghost loitering munition. However, US officials have stated that it is a one-way attack munition akin to the Switchblade.
Loitering munitions, whether provided by international partners or built by Ukrainian troops have had success in Ukraine, helping shape the battlefield at the tactical level. By pairing them with highly trained special-operations troops operating from forward bases, as DiRubbio outlines, they could also prove valuable in other serious contingencies.
Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. He is working toward a master's degree in strategy and cybersecurity at Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies.
Watch: The true cost of America's war machines
American 'Ghost' drones for Ukraine designed for attack: Pentagon
The Pentagon is seen from the air in Washington, U.S., March 3, 2022, more than a week after Russia invaded Ukraine. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights
WASHINGTON, April 21 (Reuters) - Newly disclosed "Ghost" drones that are part of America's latest arms package for Ukraine were developed by the U.S. Air Force for attacking targets and are destroyed after a single use, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
The United States and its allies have ramped up arms shipments to Kyiv ahead of Russia's announced offensive in eastern Ukraine, as Moscow tries to salvage its nearly two-month old campaign.
Ukrainian forces have used Western weapons including Stinger and Javelin missiles along with drones, like the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 and U.S.-made Switchblade, effectively to target Russian positions.
The White House said earlier on Thursday that over 121 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems would be provided to Ukraine as part of the new arms package. read more
The Pentagon said the Ghost drones are well suited for the coming fight in Ukraine's Donbas region, which officials have described as flat terrain reminiscent of the U.S. state of Kansas.
"It was developed for a set of requirements that very closely match what the Ukrainians need right now in Donbas," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, without elaborating.
Little else is known about the drones, including their range and precise capabilities, and Kirby declined to offer more details about them.
Still, he did say they were designed mainly for striking targets.
"It can also be used to give you a sight picture of what it's seeing, of course. But its principal focus is attack," Kirby said.
A small number of Ukrainians have been trained in the United States on how to operate Switchblade drones, single-use weapons that fly into their targets and detonate on impact.
Kirby said training for the Ghost drones would be similar to the training on the Switchblade. But he declined to detail training plans or say how many Ukrainians would be trained on the new system.
The Ghost drones have not yet been delivered to Ukraine.
Earlier on Thursday, Kirby said the drones had been rapidly developed for Ukraine. But later, at a news conference, he clarified that development had started before the Russian invasion on Feb. 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," Kirby said.
China willing to cooperate with US, manage differences - Xi
China chases US and Russia guided-missile submarine capabilities with new vessels
Israel bombards Gaza as world leaders call for pause in conflict to let aid in
Israel's military tells UN in Gaza: ask Hamas for fuel
Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; Editing by Sandra Maler and Alistair Bell
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Phil Stewart has reported from more than 60 countries, including Afghanistan, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China and South Sudan. An award-winning Washington-based national security reporter, Phil has appeared on NPR, PBS NewsHour, Fox News and other programs and moderated national security events, including at the Reagan National Defense Forum and the German Marshall Fund. He is a recipient of the Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence and the Joe Galloway Award.
National security correspondent focusing on the Pentagon in Washington D.C. Reports on U.S. military activity and operations throughout the world and the impact that they have. Has reported from over two dozen countries to include Iraq, Afghanistan, and much of the Middle East, Asia and Europe. From Karachi, Pakistan.
More from Reuters
Australian court finds Carnival misled about cruise's COVID risks in landmark ruling
Carnival Corp's Australian unit has been ordered to pay the medical expenses of a woman who contracted COVID-19, with a judge ruling that the cruise ship operator misled passengers about safety risks in a landmark class action ruling.
Russian forces pound eastern Ukraine's Avdiivka
Mexico braces for Category 5 hurricane, risk of 'catastrophic' damage
China passes patriotic education law for children, families -state media
Biden, Saudi crown prince discuss Israel-Hamas war diplomacy
- Today's news
- Skullduggery podcast
- My Portfolio
- Personal finance
- Daily Fantasy
- Horse Racing
- Team apparel and gear
- Shop BreakingT Shirts
- Style and beauty
- Privacy Dashboard
Biden is sending Ukraine secret 'Phoenix Ghost' drones built by the USAF to combat Russian forces massing in Donbas region, say reports
The Pentagon said it is sending Ukraine 121 "Phoenix Ghost" drones as part of a $800 million arms package.
The drones have never been heard of before, and little is known about their range and precise capabilities.
A Pentagon spokesman said the attack drones are well-suited to the open terrain of the Donbas region.
New "Phoenix Ghost" drones are being supplied to Ukraine as part of the US $800 million arms package, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
The Pentagon emailed out a list of items being deployed to Ukraine, which included 121 "Phoenix Ghost" drones along with howitzers, tactical field equipment, and spare parts, Politico reported.
It was the first time the existence of Phoenix Ghost drones was revealed, and little else is known about their range and precise capabilities.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby declined to provide specific details but said the drones were well-suited for the open terrain of Ukraine's Donbas region, which is currently the focus of Russia's new offensive .
"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, according to Al Jazeera.
"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."
He stated that the drones are equipped with onboard cameras and that "its principal focus is attack."
Kirby compared the drones to the single-use Switchblade tactical unmanned systems , also known as "kamikaze drones," which the US sent Ukraine 100 of last month.
Switchblade drones can loiter above a target for up to 40 minutes and hit targets with warheads that detonate on impact.
The Phoenix Ghost drones were developed by the US Air Force with California-based company Aevex Aerospace, according to Politico.
The Phoenix Ghost "is a different type of aircraft. It's a one-way aircraft that is effective against medium armored ground targets," retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies and member of the Aevex board, told Politico.
The drone can fly for six-plus hours and operate at night using its infrared sensors, Deptula told the outlet, and has a longer loitering time than the Switchblade.
Kirby initially told reporters that the drones had been "rapidly developed" for Ukraine but later clarified that development had begun before the Russian invasion on February 24, Reuters said.
Read the original article on Business Insider
Do you know where your washing machine filter is, and how to clean it out.
If you've never cleaned your washing machine filter before, you may be surprised to find what's lurking in there.
Patriots waive QB Malik Cunningham 10 days after signing him to 3-year extension
The NFL can be a cold business.
Plumbers on TikTok share what not to put in a garbage disposal: ‘Why have a garbage disposal then?’
TikTokers are shocked by plumbers' instructions on garbage disposals.
Reba McEntire rightly scolds 'Voice' contestant for changing up 'one of the most iconic and beautifully written songs of all time'
"When you’re singing a song that is so well-known as ‘How Deep Is Your Love,’ you need to stay with the melody," Reba warned Mac Royals. But he totally ignored her advice.
How a new 'alliance' proposal involving Washington State, Oregon State could impact College Football Playoff
For OSU and WSU, the clock is ticking in a variety of ways. But there may be a lifeline on the table.
Seeing red: Reba McEntire doles out much-needed tough love during 'Voice' Battles
The country veteran offered the sort of rare honest criticism not witnessed since straight-shooting Adam Levine was still on the show.
Fantasy Football Week 8 WR Rankings
Check out our fantasy football wide receiver rankings for Week 8 of the 2023 NFL season!
MLB playoffs 2023: Arizona Diamondbacks stun Phillies with NLCS Game 7 victory, punch ticket to World Series
Citizens Bank Park was silenced as the Diamondbacks ended the Phillies' season on Tuesday.
NCAA could eliminate sign stealing with one simple fix
The best way to ensure 100-percent compliance with a rule is to make violating the rule impossible.
Dusty Baker reportedly ready to step down as Houston Astros manager after ALCS loss
Dusty Baker, 74, has reportedly told several people within the Astros organization that this season will be his last as the team's manager.
6 games into the Jordan Love experiment, the Packers QB is regressing into his worst-case scenario
If the Packers' front office and coaching staff don't know what Love is by season's end, then they know what he isn’t: a long-term starter. And heading into 2024 hoping for a revelation would be malpractice.
UFC 294: Gruesome groin kick sends Victor Henry to hospital, fight ends in no contest
As Henry writhed in pain from the impact, a doctor entered the ring and tried to tell him it didn't happen.
Fantasy Football Early Week 8 Waiver Wire Pickups
It's never too early to start looking to bolster your lineup. Here are three options who should be priorities on the Week 8 waiver wire.
Barn full of 23 now-classic cars up for auction, many with virtually no miles on the odometer
GiveMeTheVIN is auctioning 23 classic cars, including several low-mileage Corvette models like a 1990 ZR1 with merely 25 miles.
Maryland assistant, former Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin arrested for DUI in Florida during Terrapins' bye week
Kevin Sumlin, who led Texas A&M during the Johnny Manziel era, joined Maryland’s staff this past offseason.
Possible punishments for Michigan, Oregon vs. Utah & who will start at QB for Texas this week?
Dan Wetzel, Ross Dellenger & SI’s Pat Forde continue to dive into the latest details surrounding Connor Stalions’ involvement in the Michigan sign-stealing investigation.
Why some women 'want to want to have sex' but don't experience desire
Hypoactive sexual desire disorder can have many root causes, from physical to psychological.
Milli Vanilli's Fabrice Morvan recalls media's cruel suicide jokes and Rob Pilatus's last days: 'I tried forever to save him'
"When I was looking at my friend, my brother, I was like, 'Man, he's gone. There's no way I can get him back,'" says the surviving member of the disgraced duo, whose story is finally being told "in the right way" in a new documentary.
UAW blindsides Stellantis as 6,800 workers strike Sterling Heights — which builds Ram trucks
The UAW strike is now more than 40,000 strong as members target highly profitable vehicles in the latest round of stand-up strikes.
Tesla 'digs its own grave with the Cybertruck,' Convoy collapses and Rivian scores a win at Rebelle
Your usual host Kirsten was shredding off-road at the Rebelle Rally this week, so I'll be taking over the newsletter. In its eighth year, the Rebelle has become a proving ground of sorts for the 65 all-women teams who participate as well as stock manufacturer vehicles. There were 10 vehicles out of the 65 that fell into the electrified category such as the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe.
Exclusive: Inside Ukraine’s secret drone factories
The "Click Here" podcast traveled to Ukraine to look at its grassroots defense industry and take you into its secret drone factories where entrepreneurs are able to put innovative weapons into the hands of soldiers at the front in a matter of weeks, not months.
- By Dina Temple-Raston Sean Powers
Illustration by Megan J. Goff
“Was there a sign? Did we miss the sign?”
Vitalii Kolesnichenko was standing on a dirt road between two rusting warehouses with a big smile on his face.
“You made it,” he said.
Kolesnichenko is the CEO and founder of a Ukrainian drone company called Airlogix . And he agreed to give the "Click here" podcast a tour of his drone factory on one condition: That we keep its location a secret.
The process of arriving was so stealthy, the night before our arrival, he sent us GPS coordinates — a little, red pin dropped in the middle of nowhere — instead of an address. It turns out the facility is so well-hidden that three journalists tracking it on an iPhone managed to drive past it three times.
“You want us to have a sign?” Kolesnichenko said, extending a hand. “What should it say? Airlogix is here, we’re making combat drones for the Ukraine military, so Russia this is where to launch your missiles?” And then he burst out laughing.
He isn’t being dramatic. Pop-up drone factories like his are working around the clock to build as many drones as possible and ship them to the front-line fighters who need them. The government in Kyiv has earmarked some $1 billion to support drone startups like his, and Russian forces are trying to find them to put them out of commission.
The battle between Russia and Ukraine has been asymmetric from the start. Ukraine has responded to Russia tanks and artillery with scrappy alternatives, and none have emerged more important than the tiny flying machines that have allowed Ukraine to punch way above its weight on the battlefield.
Two workers at Airlogix work on the body of a new combat drone. “We make molds here: airframe, the fuselage, wings, tail — everything,” CEO Vitalii Kolesnichenko said.
Initially, Ukrainian soldiers tinkered with hobbyist racing drones, adding explosives and then dropping the payload on Russian positions or weaponry. It became clear right away that drones worth hundreds of dollars could be used to effectively destroy Russian tanks and artillery batteries worth millions.
Ukraine began importing as many drones as they could. They even set up a fund that would allow them to buy and import all kinds of drones to create what came to be known as “The Army of Drones.”
Most of the MacGyvered drones Ukraine had been deploying came from China , from companies like DJI, Autel and RushFPV. DJI controls about 90% of the global drone market. Then in July, China announced that it would begin restricting drone exports out of concern that they were playing too great a role on the battlefield. China has said it doesn’t want to take sides in the field. (Russia uses much more expensive drones from Iran and Turkey.)
The Chinese export restrictions went into effect Sept. 1. In anticipation of that ban, hundreds of entrepreneurs like Kolesnichenko have stepped in to create an entire drone industry from scratch.
“There was nothing here before the invasion,” Kolesnichenko said from the shop floor where more than a dozen workers were bent over fiberglass fuselages and wooden airframes bound for the front. “Two years ago, we were a little start up making cargo drones. There were, like, 10 people.”
Now, he employs 60.
‘We wish you best luck’
Kolesnichenko is a nuclear engineer by training and a pilot by inclination. He’s built like a linebacker and laughs easily.
“Planes were always my dream, my child dream,” he said. “We thought drones were the future, and we were going to use drones to deliver things to hard-to-reach places because no one was really doing that yet.”
So, he quit his engineering job and began dedicating himself to building Airlogix.
Vitalii Kolesnichenko and one of his new drone designs.
He and his team worked up some designs and built a few prototypes and then, in 2021, took them to a trade show in Las Vegas where investors seemed immediately interested.
“There was an executive from some hospital chain, and he wanted to buy these drones to deliver blood samples,” Kolesnichenko said. “Then, there was a businessman from the Caribbean and he wanted to use them to deliver groceries, alcohol and cigars between the islands.”
A worker puts the finishing touches on the body of an Airlogix combat drone.
Airlogix’s first drones looked like little Learjets . They were painted white, with tilt rotors and a logo on the tail.
“The 24th of February invasion completely changed our plans,” he said. The investors — “[they] vanished,” Kolesnichenko said. “They said, [we] wish you [the] best [of] luck. We hope you will win, but I'm sorry we’re out.”
In the war’s first weeks, Ukraine didn’t allow any men between the ages of 18 and 60 to leave the country, and many were conscripted into the military. The Territorial Defence Force, which is now a branch of the regular army, originally brought together military reservists and local volunteers. They were given a month’s training and then dispatched to the front.
What that has meant as a practical matter is that just about everyone in Ukraine has a family member or a friend fighting the Russians and, because people are staying in touch with their friends and family at the front, it has opened up direct lines of communication never seen before in a conflict.
People back at home are getting real-time information from fighters at the front and that has meant that care packages don’t just include food and favorite cookies; they also provide things like ammunition and, more recently, drones.
“We talked to militarists who were in our inner circle to ask them what they needed and then we started to make them,” Kolesnichenko said. “I joke that our drones are like a Rolls Royce, each one is actually made by hand. We don’t have an automated line because that demands a lot of resources and investment” and time — none of which Ukraine has to spare.
Artisanal drone factories
The Ukrainian military’s burn rate on drones is thought to be thousands per month. According to one report by the British think tank RUSI, some 10,000 drones are shot down or rendered unusable every 30 days. (RUSI based the estimate on what it said were extensive interviews with Ukrainian military personnel.) It’s impossible, at this point, to know if the number is accurate. What isn’t in dispute is that the appetite for drones is voracious.
Drones are now human-guided missiles, reconnaissance vehicles and even kamikaze weapons. Ukrainian officials will tell you they save lives by virtue of the fact soldiers can fly them from the relative safety of a foxhole or a trench. Russians had been triangulating drone signals to figure out where operators were hiding, but Ukraine now has so many different kinds of drones making their way to the fight, using so many different frequencies, that Russians are having a hard time finding them. It was an unexpected benefit from Kyiv’s decision to let a hundred drone factories bloom.
We visited several, and Kolesnichenko’s pop-up workshop is typical. It looks like something a hobbyist would build in a garage: Long workbenches are covered in butcher-block paper and drones in various stages of development. There are sanders and files and glue, and if you narrow your eyes, it looks like an underground facility you’d imagine out of World War II — like something the French resistance would run.
“We make molds here,” Kolesnichenko said, patting half an airplane on a rollaway table. “We make airframes, the fuselage, the wings, the tail everything.”
Around us, dozens of workers, mostly men, are bent over balsa wood endoskeletons of aircraft. A dozen wingless fuselages are parked in neat rows on metal shelves. Against the wall, fiberglass sheets hang in rolls like wrapping paper. There is a constant hum from sanders and the sweet and sour tang of adhesive, melting fiberglass and sweat.
Kolesnichenko said that the UAVs he’s building now look nothing like the cargo drones he intended to build more than a year ago — “totally different,” he said.
The commercial drones were designed to take off in the open and be tracked by air traffic control. Combat drones need to be sturdier to withstand the harsh conditions at the front, survive launches from secret positions and carry electronics that jam Russian air defense systems.
“We start from molds. The surveillance drones or kamikaze drones are built one half at a time,” he said. “We’re using resin and fiberglass and then bake it in an oven.”
The oven looks like a repurposed shipping container. They’ve cut a hole in the back, inserted a tube and connected it to a heater. The drone fuselages bake in vacuum-sealed bags for about eight hours. Think sous vide cooking without the water.
And, because of the Chinese ban on exporting drone parts, Kolesnichenko has started sourcing his electronics from Europe. He had just received a delivery when we arrived.
“It’s from England,” he said, ripping open the package. “There’s the power cable, a transmitter, we use it to communicate with laptops in the field. This is great stuff.”
This artisanal drone shop turns out about 12-15 aircraft a month, which may not sound like it will make much of a dent in Ukraine’s need for thousands of UAVs every month, until you realize that there are hundreds of factories like this across the country, all trying to build budget drones in a multibillion-dollar war.
A new military tech industry
A few days later, we meet Alex Bornyakov , Ukraine’s deputy minister of digital transformation in charge of IT industrial development, at a kind of massive WeWork-style space in Kyiv. A Columbia University graduate, he is wearing a quarter-zip sweater and jeans. The place is humming. There are three floors of young people on laptops sitting at communal tables drinking lattes. The place looks very SoHo, with giant, oversized warehouse windows and soft jazz playing in the background.
One of Bornyakov’s many jobs is to try to systematize the grassroots effort to send military equipment to the front.
“We’ve had people saying directly to people [who are fighting], I’ve got 50 drones, 20 drones, and people in the fighting would say ‘Oh, those drones are, those are good’ and start to use them,” he said. “We know people are reaching out directly to officers with offers of drones and they’d be deployed, but the general staff would know nothing about them. The process was chaos.”
Bornyakov had to find a way to organize the effort without snuffing it out.
Deputy Minister of Digital Transformation Alex Bornyakov in Kyiv, Ukraine, with "Click Here" senior producer Sean Powers, right. Bornyakov said a year ago there was no private defense industry in Ukraine.
Daryna Antoniuk/The Record
Before the Russian invasion, there was almost no private defense industry in Ukraine, Bornyakov said.
“Most of the regulations governing military tech are from the 1960s or '70s,” he said.
The Army of Drones program did a lot to ease the procedures and make them faster and more transparent. When people started to see that, they started to create companies and offer their products and try to get them certified.”
So, they have developed a two-track system: One is informal, like the way Airlogix works through friends and family contacts. The other will be more formal and systematic, closer to traditional military production.
Before the war, the government seemed to actively discourage public-private partnerships by, among other things, instituting a ceiling on the profits any company could make on a military contract. Bornyakov said companies were only allowed to make 1%. Now, the ceiling is 25%.
“This resulted in hundreds of drone companies springing up,” he said. “And now, they’re starting to compete with each other with technologies with new solutions.”
Then in April, the Ministry for Digital Transformation launched a program called Brave1 , an effort to push innovations to the front lines faster. In Bornyakov’s telling, the process is still pretty simple. Potential suppliers sign into the Brave1 portal, provide some sort of identification to prove they are Ukrainian, and then offer ideas and innovations that can help win the war.
“So, let's say you’re a small company, you're doing something in a garage and you have this prototype that works,” he said. “We can help you test this with the military and if they like it, we can start procurement, you can have your first contract, you get your money, you reinvest it, you get bigger contracts. ”
Consider what happened with a Ukrainian company called Temerland . It had an idea for a machine gun turret on wheels, almost like a little tank.
It is controlled remotely through a tablet, which means Ukrainian soldiers can shoot Russians from the relative safety of a foxhole. The idea was certified by the military in two months, Bornyakov said, and is already in use on the battlefield. And he said there is much more where that came from.
“At this point we have more than 650 applications in Brave1,” he said. “So, this actually shows that the defense tech industry is booming in Ukraine. It is hard to imagine that a year ago that didn’t exist at all.”
If there has been a recurring theme in this high-tech war, it has been Ukraine’s ability to innovate by necessity. It has surprised just about everyone by being craftier and more nimble than its Russian enemies and using that to great advantage.
“We fight with the enemy much, much bigger than us in terms of their access to everything — hardware, people,” he said. “If we just give them a symmetric answer, we're not gonna win this war. We need to find asymmetric solutions. So, it’s basically like fighting warships with marine drones. That's the kind of solution we're looking for.”
Which may be why Kolesnichenko has his designers over at Airlogix working on a new drone design. They’ve envisioned an aircraft that arrives on the front lines, partially assembled, in a tidy little package. A drone in a box, if you will.
Airlogix is constantly tweaking and modifying its drone designs after speaking to soldiers about what they need.
Nazar, 21, is a student and design engineer at Airlogix, and he’s spearheading the project. He asked us only to use his first name to protect his identity.
“It's still testing and we are trying to select the most simple tool in assembly,” he said. “The concept is, like, it can be assembled, you don't need special education to assemble it, you just clip it together like Lego.”
You just need two people and some glue, he said. It would take two days to build. They are rushing production to get it out into the field. “Maybe it’ll be ready in a month, maybe more, maybe less,” he said. “But not a year. We don’t have a year.”
An earlier version of this story appeared on the "Click Here" podcast from Recorded Future News. Additional reporting by Daryna Antoniuk.
Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.
- AI & ML
- JADC2 & Comms
- Information Warfare
- Electronic Warfare
- The Compass
- Events Calendar
- Newsletters (Opens in new window)
Ukraine continues to snap up Chinese DJI drones for its defense
MILAN — Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said the country’s forces are leaning heavily on Chinese DJI drones in the defense of their country, a claim that the manufacturer has since declared was news to them.
The Oct. 8 statement made by Denys Shmyhal at the Kyiv International Economic Forum that Ukraine is effectively buying 60% of DJI’s global output of Mavic quadcopter drones, even though the vendor officially prohibits selling to militaries, highlights how commercial technology with military utility can permeate conflict zones practically unimpeded.
Ukraine is also growing its own drone program, so it is hard to ascertain how reliant the country is on the small drones made in China, which has aligned itself with the attacker, Russia. In Europe, DJI Mavic-series drones sell on Amazon from €600 ($640) to several thousand euros, depending on the sophistication of the aircraft, onboard camera and user terminal interface.
“We are utterly surprised by the statement by the Ukrainian prime minister as he has no insight into DJI’s production numbers,” a DJI spokesperson told Defense News. “The statement bears no resemblance to reality and is totally misleading with regards to DJI’s involvement in the use of its production in Ukraine.”
All DJI distributors and resellers are contractually obligated to certify periodically that they are adhering to the ban, according to the representative, or risk facing the termination of their business ties with the company. “We regret deeply that our consistently repeated public condemnation of our products being used in combat is not being acknowledged by various stakeholders.”
According to a recent New York Times report based on official Ukrainian and Russian customs data from a third-party provider, between January and June, Kyiv is estimated to have received “millions” of Chinese-made drones and spare parts, primarily coming from European intermediaries.
In that same period, the article states, Chinese trading firms shipped no less than $14.5 million worth of drone equipment to Russia.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense did not return a request for clarification about whether the prime minister’s comments referred to a government acquisition program or unofficial procurement channels.
Ukraine’s allies have organized drone-support campaigns, often in the form of private donation drives, aimed at giving Kyiv’s forces an edge in drone-based surveillance and attack capabilities.
Meanwhile, Russian drone pilots and operators have been reported to learn flying Mavic drones at educational centers within the country.
The Ukrainian business intelligence consultancy group Molfar identified one of these as “Pustelga,” which in several recent publications on its social media stated that training is provided on Mavic drones.
Editor’s note: This article was updated to clarify the role of Russian drone training outfit “Pustelga,” as claimed by Molfar.
Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.
More In Unmanned
US cybersecurity agency funding under fire from Sen. Rand Paul
The lawmaker says his legislation would "require cisa to come clean about its actions that violated the first amendment.".
Companies lobby Congress to approve $1 billion ‘hedge portfolio’
In an oct. 24 letter, drafted on behalf of 63 companies, the silicon valley defense group calls on lawmakers to fully fund the provision..
Is Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system ironclad?
In just two weeks, hamas has fired 7,000 rockets toward israel, according to the israeli military, more than any of the previous four wars since 2007..
US troops in Middle East brace for ‘significant escalation’ of attacks
The pentagon is increasing force protection amid repeated drone attacks in iraq and syria..
Former NSA worker pleads guilty to trying to sell US secrets to Russia
The 31-year-old army veteran from colorado springs, colo., had faced a possible life sentence, featured video, gears of war: army updates logistics and acquisitions | defense news weekly full episode, 10.21.23.
New Army watercraft? Force looks to develop new vehicles
GM Defense displays hybrid electric battlefield assets
See it: new tactical mini-drone and a dual-rotor helicopter
Trending now, china may struggle in electromagnetic spectrum fighting, pentagon says, philippine military ordered to stop using artificial intelligence apps, upgrade networks or suffer on the battlefield, generals warn.