Pentagon sends first highly-secret Phoenix Ghost drones to Ukraine

Pentagon sends the first batch of highly-secret Phoenix Ghost drones to Ukraine as it steps up weapons flights and reveals it is training Ukrainian troops at U.S. bases in Germany to lead fight against Russian invasion

  • First U.S. shipment of Phoenix Ghost drones will arrive in Europe today
  • An official said more than 12 weapons flights will leave the U.S. in next 24 hours 
  • The Phoenix Ghost drones operate like Switchblade kamikaze drones
  • However, almost no information has been released about the new weapon
  • It comes as the Pentagon said Russia was preparing to accelerate its offensive in the eastern Donbas region on Ukraine after 65 days of fighting 
  • And the Pentagon said it will now train Ukrainian forces in Germany 

More than a dozen flights will leave the continental U.S. in the next 24 hours carrying weapons destined for Ukrainian armed forces, including more howitzers and the first of the new Phoenix Ghost drones.

A senior defense official told reporters that the new, secret drones will join 100 Switchblades – kamikaze drones that carry a warhead – that have already been delivered.

It comes as Russia on Thursday pounded targets across Ukraine, hitting high-rise apartments in Kyiv, just when the capital was beginning a return to normal.

And as the Pentagon announced it had begun training some Ukrainian forces at bases in Germany on key weapons systems.

U.S. officials have suggested they face a race against time to deliver weapons to Ukrainian forces as they fight fierce battles in the eastern Donbas region. 

Last week, President Joe Biden announced he was giving them a new weapon – previously classified Phoenix Ghost drones specially tailored for the conflict.

Very little is known about the new Phoenix Ghost drones other than that they operate in similar style to Switchblade killer drones, seen here, which crash into their targets

A senior defense official on Friday said that more than a dozen flights would carry weapons – including the first tranche of Phoenix Ghosts – from the U.S. to Europe in the next 24 hours

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Isiah Enriquez, a native of Lubbock, Texas, and a rifleman with 1st Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment (1/2), 2d Marine Division (2d MARDIV), launches a Switchblade Drone during a training exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., July 7, 2021

The U.S. is seeking to provide munitions that can counter Russian armor during the next phase of the war

The drones are manufactured by AEVEX Aerospace, but no photos were immediately available

‘In the next 24 hours, more than a dozen flights are expected from the continental United States and that will include howitzers, more 155 rounds, Some of those Phoenix ghost UAVs and and even some of the radars that we talked about,’ said a defense official.

Little is known about the unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone.  

It is manufactured by AEVEX Aerospace. However, the company is known for modifying drones and providing flight training, suggesting the Phoenix Ghost could be based on a commercially available aircraft.

The company did not respond to a request for more information.

However, U.S. officials have previously described it as a ‘one-way drone’ that ‘delivers a punch,’ leading analysts to say it might operate like a Switchblade, which can loiter over a target before crashing into it with an explosive payload.

The official said training of Ukrainian troops in the new weapon had not yet started. 

‘We believe that the first tranche of those drones should be arriving in the region today, but not all 121. the first tranche of them will be arriving in the region today,’ said the official at Friday’s briefing. 

‘And again, we’re still working out the how the specific training is going to be done on this. We do believe that training will not take very long for for pilots that have some existing UAV knowledge.’

Later, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby announced that the U.S. had begun training Ukrainian forces at bases inside Germany. 

‘These efforts build on the initial artillery training that Ukraine’s forces already have received elsewhere, and also includes training on the radar system and armored vehicles that have been recently announced as part of security assistance packages,’ he said.

Some of the training will be conducted by Florida National Guard members. They were withdrawn from Ukraine as invasion loomed in February, but are now resuming their work with Ukrainian forces in Germany, said Kirby.

‘And what I can tell you is that we’re talking about roughly three locations outside of, of Ukraine, and in this case, we definitely can identify Germany as a site,’ added Kirby.

‘But there are other sites outside Ukraine and and we’re just not at liberty to disclose where they are. 

FILE – A Ukrainian soldier walks past a Russian tank after recent battles at the village of Moshchun close to Kyiv, Ukraine, April 19, 2022. Drones are capable of taking out Russian armor

The Ukrainians have also successfully targeted Russian armor with Turkish-made drones 

More weapons will flow in during the next 24 hours as the U.S. and partners try to shore up Ukrainian defenses ahead of an expected Russian push in Donbas. 

‘We believe that essentially what they’re doing is is continuing to set conditions for a sustained and larger and longer offensive that I am not suggesting that offensive hasn’t been done. Of course, they’ve begun – there is fighting there,’ said the official.

‘But we still think that it is of a piece of they’re trying to set the proper conditions for for sustained offensive operations.’

The urgency was on display this week, when Biden asked Congress to approve another $33 billion in spending on Ukraine. 

‘The United States alone has provided 10 anti-armor systems for every Russian tank that is in Ukraine – 10 to one,’ said Biden

‘We’re providing Ukraine significant, timely intelligence to help them defend themselves against the Russian onslaught.

‘And we’re facilitating a significant flow of weapons and systems to Ukraine from our allies and partners around the world, including tanks, artillery, and other weapons.’

Poland has sent more than 200 Soviet-era T-72 battle tanks (file image) to Ukraine as part of a $1.6bn military aid package as fighting intensifies

Poland has also sent Warmate drones – a less-advanced version of the American Switchblades which have an explosive charge in the nose (left and right)

Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelensky tweeted: ‘Thank you @POTUS and the American people for their leadership in supporting Ukraine in our fight against Russian aggression. 

Other nations have followed suit. The German parliament voted this week to begin the supply of heavy weapons. 

And Poland has sent hundreds of tanks.

Warsaw has sent more than 200 T-72s – originally produced by the Soviet Union – into Ukraine in recent weeks, the country’s national radio broadcaster said today, along with mobile artillery, drones and rocket launchers as part of a $1.6bn package.

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