A group of bipartisan senators is urging the Biden administration to provide Ukraine with advanced MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that would give Kyiv longer-range capability.
The Biden administration has been hesitant to send the drones due to the risk of escalation with Russia and concerns that the sensitive technology in the drones could end up in the wrong hands.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the Biden administration has decided not to provide the drones, although other reporting disputed that claim and said a final decision hadn’t been made.
In a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, 16 senators expressed “concern” over the reports that said the administration has declined to send the MQ-1C. The senators asked the administration to give “careful reconsideration” to the Ukrainian request.
The letter was led by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and was signed by many members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, including ranking member James Inhofe (R-OK). The senators said the MQ-1C and other long-range capabilities would provide “Ukraine additional lethality needed to eject Russian forces and regain occupied territory.”
Providing MQ-1Cs would be a major escalation in US military aid to Kyiv as the drones can be armed with powerful hellfire missiles and can fly for up to 30 hours. The drones would give Ukraine the capability to strike targets inside Russian territory. The US has provided other long-range arms under the condition they wouldn’t be used to target Russian territory, with the exception of Crimea.
Officials told CNN last week that the US was considering modifying the MQ-1Cs to change the technology of some components so it wouldn’t pose as much of a risk if they end up in Russia’s hands. The report said the effort was being led by the US Army, but any modifications would take time.