US Army Considering Downgrading Gray Eagle Drones for Ukraine

The US Army is considering modifying its MQ-1C Gray Eagle tactical drones for operations in Ukraine.

Kyiv has long sought the General Atomics unmanned system armed with Hellfire missiles to counter Russian offensives.

However, the drone was not part of the recent $400-million US military aid package for the war-torn nation, which included air defense systems and missiles.

Two US officials revealed that Washington is still looking into system changes that would make the potential of losing it on the battlefield less of a danger.

The drone reportedly has sensitive onboard technologies that Moscow could steal if neutralized.

The decision to provide Ukraine with such a powerful armed drone has been delayed over these concerns.

“There are specific and very technical tweaks and neutering that can be done to these that may make it possible in the nearer term,” a congressional official told CNN. “But those things take time and are fairly complex.”

The modifications would increase the likelihood of Ukraine receiving them.

Additional Concerns

The US Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle drone addresses the need for an armed, long-endurance unmanned system that offers greater range, altitude, and payload flexibility.

An upgrade on the MQ-1 Predator, the drone can reportedly fly for over 27 hours and carry up to four Hellfire missiles.

It is also equipped with a technology known as the Multi-Spectral Targeting System that provides real-time intelligence, targeting, and tracking.

There is persistent concern that the platform is not “survivable” in Ukraine’s war because of Russia’s sophisticated air defense systems and the number of missiles propelled across Ukrainian skies.

The US also has reservations that the drone and associated equipment would pose too many training and logistical problems for the Ukrainian military.

“These are very expensive systems and there are concerns that they could be shot down,” another unnamed official told the outlet.

Final Decision

Washington’s decision over whether to send Gray Eagles to Ukraine will fall heavily on Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

He is expected to render a final decision soon.

If the delivery goes through, it would not be the first time the US has modified weapons systems before sending them to Ukraine.

Earlier this year, the country removed classified parts of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles before shipping them to its European ally.