DHe Russian troops will soon encounter American-made drones at the Battle of Donbas. Ukrainian defenders will receive 121 Phoenix Ghost suicide drones from the United States. They are part of the $ 800 million security package the Biden administration announced this week in support of Kiev – and its most well-maintained component.
Anyone looking for pictures of drones online will be unsuccessful. The Aevex Aerospace manufacturing consortium does not even list Phoenix Ghost on its website. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby left it at a news conference in Washington DC on Thursday with some suggestions. The Phoenix Ghost is part of a drone program that the U.S. Air Force was working on before the Russian attack. In discussions with the Ukrainians, it was concluded that the drone would fit “very nicely” to their needs at the battle of Donbass.
At least these needs are no secret: Ukrainian defenders are facing a superior force of Russian troops in the east of the country. Since the beginning of the week, Moscow has tried to completely occupy the Luhansk and Donetsk regions with attacks from the north, east and south, thus encircling parts of the Ukrainian armed forces.
Given the open ground, Russian combat troops in eastern Ukraine have better opportunities to establish their supremacy in battle tanks and armored formations. Ambushes by anti-tank gun hunters from built-up areas, with the help of which Ukrainians halted Russian advance into the north, are much less common here. That’s one reason why Kiev is now so desperately looking for Western supporters with tanks, artillery – and more combat drones.
The Phoenix Ghost is the second combat drone the Americans are supplying Ukraine. According to the U.S. military, Kiev’s troops have already received 400 keystrokes, some of which the Ukrainians have used in the war. Unlike traditional combat drones that launch missiles, both models have a small combat head that they use to launch at target, destroying themselves during the process. Hence the nickname drone kamikaze.
The Kamikaze variant has a number of advantages over conventional combat drones: it is cheap and easy to learn how to operate. No type of drone needs a runway. A key blade weighs 2.5 kilograms in its smallest configuration and can be easily transported by a pedestrian. And finally, drones can circulate over their area of operation almost unnoticed for a long time before sinking. Therefore, experts also talk about “lost ammunition”, ie ammunition that is addictive, so to speak. This means that they can circulate in the air until a target is found, then dive down onto it.
According to an Aevex board member, Phoenix Ghosts are even more powerful than Switchblades. The drone can take off vertically, aim for a target for more than six hours and, thanks to its infrared sensors, can function even at night, former US Lieutenant General David Deptula was quoted as saying on Thursday. The circuit breaker, on the other hand, can only stay in the air for an hour and is effective against “medium-sized ground armored targets,” said the dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.
It is still unclear when exactly the new kamikaze drones will be used.