Joe Manchin, Lindsey Graham, and 14 other U.S. senators demand that Biden give Ukraine a top-tier U.S. drone.

by Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has intensified pressure on the Biden administration to give Ukraine a top-tier U.S. drone capable of firing four Hellfire missiles or eight Stinger munitions. The 16 senators, led by Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst and West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, called the Gray Eagle MQ-1C “the Ukrainian government’s highest-priority military equipment transfer request” of unmanned aerial systems and said it would have “the potential to drive the strategic course of the war in Ukraine’s favor.”

Despite aggressive lobbying from the drone industry, the Gray Eagle’s manufacturer General Atomics, the Ukrainian government, and a slew of U.S. lawmakers, the Biden administration and Pentagon have so far declined to approve the transfer of the drones. They have cited concerns about exporting sensitive components on the drone, including a Raytheon-manufactured targeting and surveillance system. While the U.S. has exported previous generations of weaponized drones to its allies, it has never approved a foreign sale of the Gray Eagle.


An Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone undergoing maintenance in a hangar at Columbus Air Force Base, MS.

In their November 22 letter, the senators — including Republicans Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley as well as Democrats Richard Blumenthal and Mark Kelly — wrote, “Most importantly, armed [drones] could find and attack Russian warships in the Black Sea, breaking its coercive blockade and alleviate dual pressures on the Ukrainian economy and global food prices.” The senators asserted, “A Russian victory over Ukraine would significantly damage American security and prosperity.”

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