US considers selling 4 MQ-1C Grey Eagle MALE UAVs to Ukraine
According to Reuters, the U.S. is considering selling – not giving – four MQ-1C Grey Eagle MALE [Medium Altitude Long Range] drones to Ukraine, a UAV derived from the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator. Laurent Lagneau reports in Opex360.
Follow Army Recognition on Google News at this link
General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle (Picture source: U.S. Army)
The General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle (previously the Warrior; also called Sky Warrior and ERMP or Extended-Range Multi-Purpose) is a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS). It was developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) for the U.S. Army as an upgrade of the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator. This type of drone can carry AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and GBU-44/B Viper Strike guided bombs. In addition, it implements the AN/AAS-32 multi-spectral target acquisition system as well as a synthetic aperture radar and other sensors dedicated to intelligence gathering. Electronic warfare systems can also be added. With an endurance of nearly 30 hours, it generally operates at a maximum altitude of 25,000 feet [about 7,600 meters].
But, as relevantly asked by Laurent Lagneau, in the current context of the war, is such a drone appropriate for Ukrainian needs, knowing that it will have to operate in a very contested environment? Moreover, Ukraine uses Bayraktar TB-2 UAVs which have already proved their efficiency on many occasions. And, above all, it offers an unbeatable "quality-price" ratio ($4 to $5 million per unit, list price). However, it is true that the MQ-1C Grey Eagle is more technologically advanced... and can do more things. But only if it is not shot down on its first sorties.
While, indeed, drones may have played an important role early in Russia's invasion of Ukraine, that would be less true now, as Jack Watling of the Royal United Services Institute [RUSI] recently pointed out after the Associated Press: "Over time, as the Russians get more organized, the freedom to use drones decreases". In addition, Laurent Lagneau comments, there is the question of the long training time demanded for Ukrainian remote pilots and technicians on such a sophisticated UAV as the MQ-1C Grey Eagles. But according to Reuters, the Pentagon's idea would be to select the most experienced ones in order to reduce the time of such training to a "handful of weeks".
If such a sale is proposed to Ukraine, Congress will have its say, Laurent Lagneau underlines, but it is very likely that this step would be a mere formality. The MQ-1Cs, which could give an enhanced offensive capability to Ukrainian forces, could further aggravate tensions between the United States and Russia.