The administration of US President Joe Biden has scraped a plan to sell four large, armable drones to Ukraine due to security concerns, a new report says.
In early June, it was revealed that Washington planned to sell Ukraine at least four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that can be armed with Hellfire missiles for battlefield use against Russia.
The controversial plan, which has been under discussion since March. Russia responded by saying that the potential sale would not change the parameters of Moscow’s military operation in the ex-Soviet country.
On Friday, two sources familiar with the matter, told Reuters that the White House had shelved the plan – at least temporarily – on the fear that its sophisticated surveillance equipment might fall into enemy hands, in an apparent reference to Russia.
The sale faced technical objection from the Pentagon’s Defense Technology Security Administration, which is charged with keeping high value technology away from enemy hands, after it conducted a deeper review of the plan, the sources said.
They added that the plan was abandoned due to concerns the radar and surveillance equipment on the advanced drones could cause a security risk for the US if it fell into Russian hands, adding that such consideration had been overlooked in the initial review of the plan.
“Technology security reviews are a standard practice for the transfer of US defense articles to all international partners. All cases are reviewed individually on their own merit. Through the established process, national security concerns are elevated to the appropriate approving authority,” said a Pentagon spokeswoman, Sue Gough.
One of the unnamed sources, who is a US official, further told Reuters that it was still uncertain when the top chain of command at the Pentagon might decide whether to scrape the plan for good or to continue with the deal.
According to another source, the sale could still go through if the existing radar and sensor package of MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones can be swapped for something less sophisticated, but that can take months to complete.
Congress has a chance to block the transaction if the White House decides to press ahead with the deal, though that is seen as unlikely.
Since the onset of Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, the US and its European allies have been pouring advanced weapons into the ex-Soviet country.