US weapons manufacturer offers Ukraine deadly combat drones for $1.

Photo: A MQ-9 Reaper was among General Atomics options to respond to the requests of Ukrainian forces from the outset of the invasion (Picture: US Department of Defence).

 

US weapons maker General Atomics has offered to sell two lethal drones to Ukraine for the “symbolic” price of $1.

The company also reiterated its “offer to train the first cadre of pilots and maintainers at our expense”.

Linden Blue, the chief executive officer of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, said in a statement that the weapons maker has “delivered more than 1,000 aircraft over 30 years and flown nearly eight million flight hours, most of them in hostile areas around the world”.

Mr Blue said in his statement that they “offered to transfer two of our own, company-owned training aircraft, plus the ground control station and other hardware required to operate them, for the symbolic price of $1”.

The defence contractor did not however specify which drones it was planning to supply to Ukraine.

They did, however, state that they had looked “to respond to the requests of Ukrainian forces” with their products from the “outset of the Russian invasion, this included the MQ-9 Reaper, an aircraft which has been used by the Royal Air Force against elements of the terrorist network in Syria and MQ-1C Gray Eagle.

Mr Blue added that “both systems have been used to devastating effect in combat by US and partner nations for more than two decades and remain the gold standard for high-quality, medium-altitude UAS in the world”.

“A remarkable deal with no strings attached.”

General Atomics acknowledged in its statement that the preparation of the drones for combat use would come with additional costs that are outside of the firm’s control.

This would include shipping them to Ukraine, expanding satellite capability, setting up operations on the ground, and fitting the drones with the necessary equipment.

General Atomics did however say that its “estimates for launch and ongoing operations do not include one penny of profit to our company”.

Reportedly, $10m (£8.2m) would have to be spent in preparing and shipping the drones to Ukraine with an additional $8m (£6.6m) on maintenance, according to The Wall Street Journal.

CEO Mr Blue said: “Factoring in hardware and training that is essentially free, the offer is a remarkable deal with no strings attached. All that is required is approval from the US government.”

 MQ-9 Reaper

The aircraft’s “persistence and array” of surveillance sensors have made the MQ-9 Reaper an “essential complement” to the Royal Air Force’s crewed platforms, according to the RAF.

The MQ-9 Reaper (Reaper MQ-9A) is a remotely piloted medium-altitude, long-endurance aircraft designed for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR), and attack missions.

It has continued to conduct armed reconnaissance patrols against elements of the terrorist network in Syria and support, as required, the Iraqi authorities’ efforts to keep IS, also known as Daesh, out of their country.

In December, the RAF reported that a Reaper drone struck a so-called Islamic State (IS) target in northern Syria.

 

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