The White House is sending the government of Ukraine a new type of drone developed by the U.S. Air Force that’s never been used in the battlefield before, according to Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby in a press conference Thursday.
Information about the drone, dubbed the Phoenix Ghost, is still classified but Kirby says it’s similar to the Switchblade, many of which have already been sent to Ukraine in the country’s fight against Russia. The Switchblade is a very small tube-launched drone equipped with a camera and an explosive, making it a “single-use” aerial weapon.
“This unmanned aerial system is designed for tactical operations—in other words, largely but not exclusively, to attack targets,” Kirby said about the Phoenix Ghost on Thursday.
“Like almost all unmanned aerial systems, it has optics, so it can also be used to give you a site picture of what it’s seeing, of course. But its principle focus is attack,” Kirby continued.
Kirby said that while the Phoenix Ghost had been in development before Russia first started to attack Ukraine on Feb. 24, the Air Force helped tailor the new drone to meet Ukraine’s needs—especially in the eastern part of the country. When asked by a reporter at Thursday’s press conference what that means, Kirby wouldn’t elaborate.
“Without getting into the specifications, the kinds of things this drone can do, lends itself well to this particular type of terrain. I think I’m just going to leave it at that. But the purpose is akin to the Switchblade,” Kirby said.
The Phoenix Ghost drone was developed by AEVEX Aerospace based in Solana Beach, California, according to Breaking Defense. AEVEX did not immediately respond to an email from Gizmodo early Friday but Breaking Defense has a funny story about calling the company on Thursday. Apparently the reporter from Breaking Defense identified themselves as a reporter and before they could even ask a question the person from AEVEX replied, “We have no comment on the issue you are calling about.” When the reporter explained they wanted to ask about the Phoenix Ghost, the AEVEX representative repeated the same line.
While the Pentagon keeps saying the Phoenix Ghost is like the Switchblade, The Drive news outlet points out that doesn’t mean it necessarily is a tube-launched drone like the Switchblade. The Phoenix Ghost could be a quadcopter, and the only similarity with the Switchblade could be that it’s a single-use drone with an optical system and an attached explosive. We simply don’t know at this point. But the Russians are likely to find out soon enough.
The Phoenix Ghost drone delivery is just part of a new $800 million military assistance package for Ukraine which also includes 72 Howitzers, tactical vehicles to tow the Howitzers, and at least 144,000 artillery rounds to shoot out of those Howitzers. Ukraine will receive precisely 121 Phoenix Ghost drone systems, according to the Pentagon.
Over 5 million people have fled Ukraine as refugees, according to a tally by the United Nations, with the vast majority currently in Poland. And with no end in sight, there are sure to be millions more forced to leave their homes, all because Russian President Vladimir Putin decided he had to show what a big tough man he is on the world stage.