WASHINGTON, June 1 (Reuters) - The Biden administration plans to sell Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that can be armed with Hellfire missiles for battlefield use against Russia, three people familiar with the situation said.
The sale of the General Atomics-made drones could still be blocked by Congress, the sources said, adding that there is also a risk of a last minute policy reversal that could scuttle the plan, which has been under review at the Pentagon for several weeks.
Ukraine has been using several types of smaller shorter range unmanned aerial systems against Russian forces that invaded the country in late February. They include the AeroVironment (AVAV.O) RQ-20 Puma AE, and the Turkish Bayraktar-TB2.
But the Gray Eagle represents a leap in technology because it can fly up to 30 or more hours depending on its mission and can gather huge amounts of data for intelligence purposes. Gray Eagles, the Army's version of the more widely known Predator drone, can also carry up to eight powerful Hellfire missiles.
The sale is significant because it puts an advanced reusable U.S. system capable of multiple deep strikes on the battlefield against Russia for the first time.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said last week that Ukraine needed rocket systems and that some countries were “dragging their feet” in providing Kyiv with heavy weapons.
The rocket systems transfer was approved after Ukraine assured the Biden administration that it will not use them to launch cross-border attacks on Russia, Kahl said. The administration also decided to send munitions the HIMARS can launch that have a range of about 45 miles, rather than the long-range Advanced Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) that can reach up to 186 miles, limiting how Ukraine can use the weapons.
Kahl said that the United States has a “fair amount of capacity” to send additional HIMARS, but U.S. officials want to assess how they are used before making future deliveries.
“We need to get information … about how useful they are and how they’re being used on the battlefield,” he said.
The weapons are part of a new $700 million package with a variety of weapons and equipment the United States has already sent to Ukraine. They include counter-artillery radars, Javelin anti-armor missiles, 155-millimeter howitzer artillery rounds and Mi-17 helicopters, the Pentagon said.
The United States has sent Ukraine $5.3 billion in security assistance since President Biden took office, the bulk of it — $4.6 billion — following the invasion.
The Biden administration announced the HIMARS decision Tuesday night with Russia poised to seize the city of Severodonetsk, home to about 100,000 people. While Russia’s earlier efforts to seize the capital city of Kyiv and other major population centers were repelled, Russian forces now control the southeastern port city of Mariupol, the southern city of Kherson and swaths of territory connecting them.
Meanwhile, Sky News reported exclusively that U.S. hackers have been striking at targets in cyberspace to support Ukraine, according to Gen Paul Nakasone, who is also the director of the National Security Agency.
When reached for a comment, Russell Goemaere, a spokesman for Cyber Command, told Military.com in an email that he had nothing further to add to Nakasone's comments.
Goemaere also noted that both Nakasone and other Cyber Command officials have previously spoken publicly about the defensive cybersecurity aid that they have been providing to Ukraine.
In an address to Vanderbilt University in early May, Nakasone said that he had "deployed a hunt team who sat side-by-side with our partners to gain critical insights that have increased homeland defense for both the United States and Ukraine."
"These operations have bolstered the resilience of Ukraine and our NATO Allies and partners," Nakasone added.
Officials in both situations were quick to note the actions they were describing were not meant to be escalatory.
Maj. Gen. Joe Hartman, the head of Cyber Command’s Cyber National Mission Force, also speaking at Vanderbilt, noted that "our adversaries were taking advantage of us in cyberspace regardless, and would have continued to do so, with impunity if we hadn't shifted to a proactive approach."
United States security assistance committed to Ukraine includes:
- Over 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems;
- Over 5,500 Javelin anti-armor systems;
- Over 14,000 other anti-armor systems;
- Over 700 Switchblade Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems;
- 90 155mm Howitzers and over 200,000 155mm artillery rounds;
- 72 Tactical Vehicles to tow 155mm Howitzers;
- 16 Mi-17 helicopters;
- Hundreds of Armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles;
- 200 M113 Armored Personnel Carriers;
- Over 7,000 small arms;
- Over 50,000,000 rounds of ammunition;
- 75,000 sets of body armor and helmets;
- 121 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems;
- Laser-guided rocket systems;
- Puma Unmanned Aerial Systems;
- Unmanned Coastal Defense Vessels;
- 17 counter-artillery radars;
- Four counter-mortar radars;
- Two air surveillance radars;
- M18A1 Claymore anti-personnel munitions;
- C-4 explosives and demolition equipment for obstacle clearing;
- Tactical secure communications systems;
- Night vision devices, thermal imagery systems, optics, and laser rangefinders;
- Commercial satellite imagery services;
- Explosive ordnance disposal protective gear;
- Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear protective equipment;
- Medical supplies to include first aid kits;
- Electronic jamming equipment;
- Field equipment and spare parts.
The West has imposed the harshest sanctions ever. It has launched a swelling flow of arms into Ukraine. Eternally neutral Finland and Sweden are pushing into NATO. Even the inventor of neutralism, Switzerland, has signed on to the sanctions regime. Germany, the country in the middle both geographically and diplomatically, has pledged to pump €100 billion into an army it had let rot away after the demise of the Soviet Union. Berlin is scrambling to rid itself of its excruciating dependence on Russian oil and gas—and so is the EU. Only the usual suspects in the Authoritarian International like Turkey and Hungary are sidling up to the Kremlin.
Most amazing has been the reaction of what-do-we-care Western society. Look around in the United States, where innumerable folks have opened their homes for fundraisers. Where small communities have taken in Ukrainian refugees. Where the networks (okay, not Fox News) are keeping up the drumbeat against unimaginable Russian cruelty.
Same in Europe, where public opinion has turned against Putin’s drive to restore the old Soviet Empire from the Caspian to the Baltic Sea. Europeans have to go back to the Thirty Years’ War of 1618–48 for the “model:” committing mass murder, raping women of all ages, looting houses and sending the booty home. The war crimes—de rigueur in the 17th century—can no longer be counted. Europeans, especially between the Rhine and Vistula, have spontaneously outflanked social agencies, sharing their abodes with Ukrainian refugees. Decadent this is not.
For contrast go back to the 1980s, when millions of Europeans thronged the streets to stop the deployment of intermediate-range nuclear missiles, toppling at least one government—Helmut Schmidt’s in Bonn. Go back farther to the Fifties and the “better red than dead” movement in much of Europe, terrorized by the nuclear saber-rattling of the Soviet Union. Today, the new reality is the refusal to be cowed by Putin’s threats to unleash tactical nukes.
Future historians will be better equipped to explain this wondrous turn on the part of the hoi-polloi. These dwarf a small group of stalwarts in the chattering classes on the left and right who keep urging Kyiv to give in to Putin. Better to live on your knees than to die on your feet. What sounds solicitous conceals self-serving angst: You must not entrap us in a war against ruthless Russia.
How to explain the astounding hardening of vox pop? Isn’t the attention of the Great Unwashed riveted on domestic priorities? Don’t people care more about their material comforts amidst accelerating inflation, empty shelves, and exploding real estate prices? Given such risks to their well-being, they should have been cowed by Putin’s unending threats of tactical nuclear strikes. So, they should be pressing their governments to stop baiting the Bear. Yet public opinion in favor of resistance might actually lead official policy.
But Ukraine is us, and we will not thrive if Putin gets away with his grab and then feels emboldened to swallow more. Hitler did it, and so did tsarist Russia in centuries past, when it grew virtually unopposed into the largest country on earth.
KYIV, May 31 (Reuters) - As volunteer fighters Oleksandr Zhuhan and Antonina Romanova pack for a return to active duty, they contemplate the unicorn insignia that gives their uniform a rare distinction - a symbol of their status as an LGBTQ couple who are Ukrainian soldiers.
Members of Ukraine's LGBTQ community who sign up for the war have taken to sewing the image of the mythical beast into their standard-issue epaulettes just below the national flag.
The practice harks back to the 2014 conflict when Russia invaded then annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, "when lots of people said there are no gay people in the army," actor, director and drama teacher Zhuhan told Reuters as he and Romanova dressed in their apartment for their second three-month combat rotation.
"So they (the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community) chose the unicorn because it is like a fantastic 'non-existent' creature."
Zhuhan and Romanova, who identifies as a non-binary person with she/her pronouns and moved to the capital from Crimea after being displaced in 2014, met through their theatre work.
Neither was trained in the use of weapons but, after spending a couple of days hiding in their bathroom at the start of the war, decided they had to do more.
"I just remember that at a certain point it became obvious that we only had three options: either hide in a bomb shelter, run away and escape, or join the Territorial Defence (volunteers). We chose the third option," Romanova said.
Russia says its forces are on a "special operation" to demilitarise Ukraine and rid it of radical anti-Russian nationalists. Ukraine and its allies call that a false pretext for a war of aggression.
For Zhuhan and Romanova, their vocation gives them an added sense of responsibility.