US arms maker offers deadly drones to Ukraine for $1, not that simple

  • US arms maker General Atomics offered two lethal drones for Ukraine for just $1.
  • The price is nominal, the company said, adding that it would also provide training.
  • But the transfer would need US government approval and would still cost millions in other fees.

A major US arms manufacturer has offered to send a pair of deadly combat drones to Ukraine for a “token” price of one dollar, with no strings attached, but this proposition is more complicated than it sounds.

The Biden administration, which has so far been reluctant to send larger, more advanced drones, would have to authorize the transfer, and even if approved, the plan would still cost millions of dollars in delivery and maintenance fees.

Linden Blue, CEO of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, wrote on a Wednesday declaration that the company recently offered to send two lethal drones used for training purposes to Ukraine. In addition to these UAVs, the defense contractor said he would also provide training for the Ukrainian operators and a ground control station, all for just $1.

General Atomics did not specify which drones it plans to provide to Ukraine. He did say, however, that since the start of the full-scale invasion of Russia nearly a year ago, two options he has considered include the MQ-9 Reaper Y MQ-1C Gray Eaglewhich are proven systems that have combat and surveillance capabilities, a 27-hour endurance, and can be armed with Hellfire missiles.

He reaper, which can gather intelligence and execute strike missions and has an operational ceiling of 50,000 feet, played a major role in the US war in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Gray Eagle succeeded the Predator drone and can fly at half that altitude. In November, senators from both sides of the aisle wrote a letter urging the Biden administration to equip Ukraine with the Gray Eagle so it can attack Russian ships in the Black Sea.

However, General Atomics acknowledged that preparing these drones for combat use carries additional costs beyond the company’s control. This includes sending them to Ukraine, expanding satellite capacity, establishing ground operations, and outfitting the drones with the necessary equipment.

Ukraine would have to spend $10 million just to prepare and ship the drones to Ukraine and an additional $8 million on maintenance, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported in the offer Still, General Atomics noted that this is a good deal for Ukraine.

“Considering the hardware and the training that is essentially free, the offer is a remarkable deal with no strings attached,” General Atomics said. “All that is required is the approval of the United States government.”

Until now, the US has avoided providing Ukraine with larger, more lethal drones like the Reaper and Gray Eagle. Instead, Washington has sent in smaller weapons like the Switchblade unmanned tactical systems, which are loitering munitions sometimes referred to as kamikaze or suicide drones.

The Biden administration is concerned that the provision of larger unmanned weaponized systems, which are subject to certain export restrictions anyway, could escalate the conflict, as The Wall Street Journal reported in November, so it remains to be seen if the US government will give the green light to the transfer of the drones that General Atomics has offered.

A State Department spokesperson told Insider that he was aware of the reports about the offer, but had nothing to add at this time. They added that Ukraine is working with limited personnel and the United States is focusing on supporting Kyiv in its near-term battlefield needs.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on the offer.

“There are limits to what a US defense company can do to support a situation like this,” General Atomics wrote. “From our perspective, it is about time that the Ukrainian forces have the information domain necessary to win this war.”

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