US Congress pushes Pentagon to decide on MQ-1C Gray Eagle drone delivery to Ukraine

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing the Pentagon to expedite a monthslong review aimed at determining whether the United States should send its MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones to Ukraine, Joe Gould and Bryant Harris write in Defense News.
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General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle (Picture source: General Atomics)

Seventeen House Democrats and Republicans on September 22 sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, pressing him to expedite an ongoing risk assessment to determine whether transferring the MQ-1C Gray Eagle drone technology poses a risk should it fall into Russian hands, Gould and Bryant Harris report: “There continue to be delays in delivering Gray Eagle systems to Ukraine despite urgent requests from Ukraine’s Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov and ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova,” the lawmakers wrote. “While important, thorough risk assessments and mitigation should not come at the expense of Ukrainian lives.”

The Ukrainian request dates back to at least April but the Pentagon’s decision remains pending over concerns about securing the technology as well as its survivability in the contested airspace above Ukraine. Officials said they are also considering the potential impact on the U.S. military’s readiness if the drone is provided from its own stockpiles.

The letter presses the Pentagon on deciding about the General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle and the MQ-9A Reaper. The lawmakers, led by Reps. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Mike Quigley, D-Ill., and Andy Harris, R-Md., called for completing the review “in a timely manner”, Gould and Bryant Harris report. “Should the decision be made to transfer Gray Eagles, then it should be done expeditiously,” they wrote. “Or, if the determination is to withhold this technology, that needs to be communicated quickly and clearly to afford our Ukrainian partners the opportunity to make alternative plans”. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., also signed the letter.

General Atomics has offered to train Ukrainian operators at no expense to American taxpayers.

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.