KEY POINTS

  • The Phoenix Ghost is similar to the Switchblade UAVs previously delivered to Ukraine
  • The new system would require minimal training for Ukrainians familiar with Switchblade
  • Pentagon claimed the system was already in development before the current conflict 

The $800 million arms package for Ukraine will have a mysterious and new weapon: the Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems. Though not much is known about this suicide drone, Pentagon has said the never-before-revealed system "would very nicely suit their needs, particularly in eastern Ukraine."

Over 121 Phoenix Ghost drones, manufactured by AEVEX Aerospace, will now head to Ukraine as the nation tries to counter the Russian assault in the Donbas region.

According to Air Force Magazine, Phoenix Ghost is similar, but not exact, to the Switchblade unmanned systems previously delivered to Ukraine. Switchblade or "kamikaze drones" are capable of flying over a target before crashing and detonating in a precision strike. Different versions of the Switchblade can fly between 15 and 40 minutes, with a range from 10 to 40 kilometers.

Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby, who spoke to reporters Thursday, too confirmed that the drone is "designed for tactical operations."

"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 was quoted by The Drive.

"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."

But, he walked back on an earlier statement by a senior defense official who said the new drone "was rapidly developed by the Air Force in response, specifically, to Ukrainian requirements." According to Kirby, 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."

On how the weapon got its name, Kirby said "I have no idea. I have no idea. I do not know.” However, he added that the new system would require minimal training for Ukrainian operators since they are familiar with Switchblade.

The manufacturer AEVEX has not commented on the specifications of the drone. Though many inquiries were made by several news outlets, AEVEX has refused to give any additional details.

AEVEX describes itself as a firm engaged in end-to-end aircraft and sensor system design, provision, integration, operations, sustainment, and data analysis, it does not appear to be an unmanned systems manufacturer. According to The Drive, it is possible that AEVEX just acted as a prime contractor lead for an imported or licensed design.

Ukraine is receving daily shipments of US weapons, including missiles designed to counter a Russian invasion threat
Representation. Ukraine receiving a shipment of US weapons. AFP / Sergei SUPINSKY
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