A bipartisan group of 16 US senators pressed the Biden administration to carefully reconsider Ukraine’s request for lethal Gray Eagle drones to fight Russia and asked the Pentagon to explain why it has not moved ahead, according to a copy of the letter.
The Biden administration has so far rejected requests for the armable MQ-1C Gray Eagle drone, which has an operational ceiling of 29,000 feet and would represent a great technological leap forward for Ukraine.
The rejection had been based on concerns the drones could be shot down, were not essential to Ukraine’s war effort and could escalate the conflict, but the Pentagon has not gone on record to confirm its stance.
Ukraine has made numerous appeals for the United States to supply it with the powerful drones, most recently with anti-drone missiles, hoping Washington will reverse its prior opposition, as Russia increasingly turns to kamikaze drones and attacks civilian infrastructure.
The senators, including Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Joe Manchin, both of whom serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, expressed concern over US opposition to the request, saying that provision of the armable drone “demands careful reconsideration.”
A Pentagon spokesman said, “As a matter of policy, we do not comment on our communication with elected officials.”
The senators gave Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin until Nov. 30 to explain why the Pentagon believed the drone was not appropriate for the fight in Ukraine, whether US concerns related to technology transfer were surmountable, and if the Pentagon thought that introducing the drone, made by General Atomics, would further antagonize Russia.
The letter and its contents were reported on by the Wall Street Journal earlier on Tuesday.