Here’s what we know about the Phoenix Ghost kamikaze drone

DrRussian forces will soon encounter US-made drones in the Battle of Donbass. Ukrainian defenders will receive 121 Phoenix Ghost kamikaze drones from the United States. It’s part of the $800 million security package that the Biden administration announced this week in support of Kyiv — and its best preserved items.

Anyone who searches for pictures of drones on the Internet will not succeed. The Association of Manufacturers Aevex Aerospace does not even list the Phoenix Ghost on its website. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby left the matter at a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Thursday with a few hints. The Phoenix Ghost is part of a drone program that the US Air Force was working on prior to the Russian attack. In discussions with the Ukrainians, it was then concluded that the drone would suit their needs in the Donbass battle.

At least these needs are not a secret: the Ukrainian defenders are facing a superior force of Russian forces in the east of the country. Since the beginning of the week, Moscow has been trying to occupy the entire Luhansk and Donetsk states with attacks from the north, east and south, thereby encircling parts of the Ukrainian armed forces.

Given the open terrain, Russian combat forces in eastern Ukraine have better chances of spreading their superiority in battle tanks and armored formations. Ambushes by hunters with anti-tank weapons from built-up areas, with the help of which the Ukrainians stopped the Russian advance in the north, are less common here. This is one reason why Kyiv is now so demanding of Western supporters that tanks and artillery — and more combat drones — are now in demand.

Phoenix ghost is stronger than transformer blades

The Phoenix Ghost is the second combat drone supplied by the Americans to Ukraine. According to the US Armed Forces, the Kyiv armed forces have already received 400 switch blades, many of which were used by the Ukrainians in the war. Unlike conventional combat drones that fire missiles, both models have a small warhead that they use to fire themselves at a target, self-destructing in the process. Hence the nickname kamikaze drones.

The Kamikaze variant has a number of advantages over conventional combat drones: it is inexpensive and easy to learn how to operate. No type of drone needs a runway. The switch blade weighs 2.5 kg in its smallest configuration and can be easily transported by an infantryman. Finally, the drones can circle over their work area almost unnoticed for a long time before sinking. So experts also talk about “lounging ammunition”, that is, hanging ammunition, so to speak. This means that they can spin in the air until a target is found, and then dive into it.

According to an Aevex board member, Phoenix Ghosts are more powerful than Switchblades. The drone can take off vertically, search for a target for more than six hours and, thanks to its infrared sensors, can also operate at night, former US Lieutenant General David Deptula reported Thursday. On the other hand, the blade can remain in midair for only an hour and is effective against “medium-armored ground targets,” said the dean of the Mitchell Institute for Space Studies.

Exactly when the new kamikaze drones will be used is still open.

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