Ukraine Seeks Reaper Drones to Aid Deep Strikes on Russian Forces

by | May 6, 2024

Ukraine Seeks Reaper Drones to Aid Deep Strikes on Russian Forces

by | May 6, 2024

MQ-9 Reaper

FILE PHOTO: An armed MQ-9 Reaper drone operated by the British Royal Air Force is seen over Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, November 2, 2009. (Credit: RAF / Tam McDonald)

As Ukraine steps up its use of long-range munitions provided by Washington, it is also seeking to obtain the US-made MQ-9 Reaper drone to help locate targets well behind the frontlines. The aircraft quickly moved to the top of Kiev’s weapons wishlist after the White House authorized transfers of longer-range missiles. 

Though Ukraine has sought the Reaper for some time, officials have doubled down on the request in recent weeks, several unnamed sources told POLITICO, noting that Kiev has asked for unarmed variants of the advanced drones to be used “only for reconnaissance.”

Earlier this year, the White House began providing Ukraine with the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) – the longest-range weapon supplied so far, able to strike targets nearly 200 miles away. Kiev believes a combination of ATACMS and Reapers could help identify and destroy Russian forces well beyond the front, the sources added. 

Reapers can be armed with munitions such as Hellfire missiles and guided bombs, but are also equipped with some of the Pentagon’s most cutting-edge surveillance tech. In 2023, Russia downed an MQ-9 over the Black Sea after a fighter jet dumped fuel on the drone. Moscow recovered the crashed UAV over loud objections by Washington, which slammed the Russian pilots for ”reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional” flying.

The officials who spoke with POLITICO about the potential transfer said the White House is concerned additional Reapers would be downed by Russian troops. 

In April 2022, Western leaders urged Kiev to forgo a negotiated settlement to the war, vowing to provide everything it needed to defeat Russia. More than two years into the conflict, the US and its NATO allies are struggling to find the money and weapons to keep the Ukrainian army fighting, even as Russian forces continue to grab up territory and advance westward.

About Kyle Anzalone

Kyle Anzalone is news editor of the Libertarian Institute, opinion editor of Antiwar.com and co-host of Conflicts of Interest with Will Porter and Connor Freeman.

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