A bipartisan group of lawmakers has sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urging him to expedite the Pentagon’s review of whether it will provide Ukraine with Gray Eagle drones.
The letter, first reported by Politico, was led by Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Andy Harris (R-Md.), the co-chairs of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus, citing their concern with “delays in delivering Gray Eagle systems to Ukraine despite urgent requests.”
“Ukraine could better confront Russian threats with advanced UAS like the MQ-1C Gray Eagle or the MQ-9A Reaper. These advanced UAS systems, which could be staged far from the war’s front lines, would provide the continuous surveillance and long range precision tracking and targeting needed to counter Russian rockets and missiles,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.
The Pentagon has yet to publicly announce whether it will supply the General Atomics-built Gray Eagles as part of future security aid packages to Ukraine, with the lawmakers writing that providing more capable drone systems “will allow [Ukraine’s armed forces] to better hold the territory they fought so hard to reclaim.”
“While important, thorough risk assessments and mitigation should not come at the expense of Ukrainian lives. It is vital that the process for determining whether to deliver these systems concludes in a timely manner. Should the decision be made to transfer Gray Eagles then it should be done expeditiously. 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 alternate plans,” the lawmakers said.
Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, reiterated to reporters on Thursday there’s been no final decision on Gray Eagle yet, noting that any such review will factor in considerations for technology protection, survivability in the Ukrainian battlespace and readiness impacts to the Army if such systems are pulled from current inventories.
“In terms of providing any specific equipment to Ukraine, it’s something that we’re always discussing. We are aware that the Ukrainians have asked for Gray Eagles or have an interest in Gray Eagles. No decisions have been made in that regard,” Ryder said during a press briefing.
Ryder noted the U.S. has provided a range of drone capabilities in previous security aid packages to assist Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s ongoing invasion, including AeroVironment’s [AVA] Puma and Switchblades, Boeing [BA] Insitu’s ScanEagles and Aevex Aerospace’s Phoenix Ghost system.
Sasha Baker, deputy under secretary of defense for policy, told reporters earlier this month that Ukrainian officials have “indicated an interest” in receiving Gray Eagles.
“We’re looking at it, I think is the short answer,” Baker said during a Sept. 9 press briefing. “That is an ongoing conversation within the department. No decision has been made at this point.”
Volodymyr Havrylov, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, on Wednesday reiterated his country’s request for the U.S. to also provide ATACMS missiles and fighter aircraft as part of future weapons aid deals (Defense Daily, Sept. 21).
Along with the four Congressional Ukrainian Caucus co-chairs, Reps. William Keating (D-Mass.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Susan Wild (D-Pa.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Andre Carson (D-Ind.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) also signed the letter to Austin.