The American weapons maker General Atomics is offering to sell Ukraine two of its MQ-9 Reaper drone for only one dollar, a move that will put pressure on the Biden administration to approve the deal, which would mark another major escalation of military aid.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Ukraine would still have to pay $10 million to prepare and ship the drones and $8 million each year to maintain them. The offer would also include a ground control center for the drones. The ground control center and maintenance support mean American contractors would likely be sent to Ukraine under the deal.
The US has supplied Ukraine with much smaller drones, but nothing as sophisticated as the Reaper, which can be armed with powerful missiles. The Reaper could also fly up to 24 hours, giving it a huge range, and is often used in US drone strikes in the Middle East and in Africa.
The offer was made by General Atomics CEO Linden Blue to Ukraine’s defense attaché at its embassy in Washington. When asked for a comment by the Journal, the company declined to comment on the details but said it’s been in discussions with the Ukrainian government.
“General Atomics has been discussing the requirements of the Ukrainian armed forces with their government for many months, and remains committed to supporting them in any way possible,” a spokesman for General Atomics said.
General Atomics has been pushing for the US to send Ukraine its MQ-1C Gray Eagle drone, which has similar capabilities to the Reapers. So far, the Biden administration has declined to send Gray Eagles over concerns the sensitive technology in components of the drones could end up in Russia’s hands.
But reports in November said the US was considering modifying the Gray Eagle drone so it would have less advanced technology, and Congress has put pressure on the Biden administration to give them to Ukraine. The administration has also shown its willingness to send weapons it previously ruled out, such as M1 Abrams tanks, even though providing such aid brings the US and Russia closer to a direct clash.