The Biden administration announced over a billion dollars in security and economic aid for Ukraine this week. The military package, which the President revealed Thursday, “includes heavy artillery weaponry, dozens of howitzers, and 144,000 rounds of ammunition to go with those howitzers,” is aimed at reinforcing Ukraine’s defense against the ongoing Russian aggression. However, it’s the Pentagon’s follow-up remark that’s making the news right now. Along with more well-known weaponry and tactical equipment, the US will give Ukraine 121 “Phoenix Ghost” drones, which have never been seen before.
But what are these enigmatic-sounding weapons? What distinguishes them from the rest? Is it true that they were created specifically for the protection of Ukraine? According to Politico, the Phoenix Ghost drone is “a distinct sort of aircraft; it’s a one-way aircraft that is effective against medium armored ground targets.” That’s most certainly a loitering munition, often known as “kamikaze drones,” a new sort of weapon capable of precisely tracking and identifying targets over great distances, ideal for asymmetric battles like the one raging in Ukraine right now.
Deptula serves on the board of directors of Aevex Aerospace, a defense corporation that created the drone soon before the Russian invasion. He claimed that the drone could take off vertically, fly for more than six hours while looking for or monitoring a target, and function at night using infrared sensors. He claims it can be operated with no training and is similar in design to the Switchblade drones that have already been sent to Ukraine, however the Phoenix Ghost has a considerably longer loitering capability than the Switchblade, which can only fly for around an hour.
The Phoenix Ghost was first reported after a senior military official said it was “rapidly created by the Air Force in response, especially, to Ukrainian requirements,” but Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby later pulled back that assertion. “It was designed to meet a set of needs that are quite similar to what the Ukrainians demand right now in Donbas,” Kirby explained. “Of course, it may be utilized to provide you a visual representation of what it’s viewing. “However, the main concentration is on assault,” he continued.
Aside than that, we don’t know much about the Phoenix Ghost. The senior defense source told Breaking Defense that it’s a “one-way drone […] built to deliver a punch,” but that due to the secret nature of most of the material, “I’m just not going to be able to delve into further detail about those capabilities,” they added. Likewise, the Pentagon, Air Force, and Aevex have all declined to react to the press, leaving a lot of questions unanswered. And as for the moniker, not even the highest-ranking defense official knows where it originated from.