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The Pentagon announced Thursday that it will deliver over 120 “Phoenix Ghost” drones specifically designed by the U.S. Air Force for Ukrainian “needs” as the war with Russia ramps up.
U.S. defense officials have warned that Russia’s invasion in the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions will be a more brutal fight as Moscow “shapes” its new strategy in the Donbas region to address specific terrain challenges.
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A senior defense official told reporters Thursday that the “Phoenix Ghost” is a tactical unmanned aerial system that “was rapidly developed by the Air Force in response specifically to Ukrainian requirements.”
The official said the newest drone would have similar capabilities to the Switchblade drone – which is small enough to be carried in a backpack, easily launched and detonates after it crashes into its target – but would not comment further on its scope of capabilities.
The officials also would not specify how quickly the Air Force was able to develop the drone but said it was created in a “direct response to Ukrainian requirements.”
“The fighting in the Donbas is going to be heavily reliant on artillery,” the senior U.S. defense official said. “Artillery systems and artillery rounds are what the Ukrainians say they need and we think they’re saying it with good reason. It’s no surprise that the Russians are also relying on artillery and bringing in artillery enablers before they started to bring in ground forces.”
An additional $800 million dollars for Ukraine was approved by the Biden administration Thursday as Russia looks to pinch the Donbas region by invading down from the north through the Kharkiv region and up through the south by way of Mariupol.
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A senior U.S. defense official told reporters that the latest package was strategically put together based on what Ukrainian officials have expressed a direct need for.
“It’s based on talking to the Ukrainians about what they need,” the official said. “It’s very much tied to the fight that they’re in, in the Donbas and what that region, from a terrain perspective, portends for the use of force.”
Howitzers, which are long-range weapons similar to a canon, tactical vehicles to tow the Howitzers, field equipment and spare parts were also included in the package.
Officials said the “Phoenix Ghost” will require minimal instruction and that the U.S. will be working with Ukrainian armed forces to get them trained up on the drones.
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Training Ukrainian forces on the Howitzers has also already begun in a third country a senior defense official said Wednesday.
The training is expected to last for roughly a week and involves only a small group of artillery soldiers who will then return to Ukraine to train their fellow armed forces.