US commits to procuring a variety of additional drones for Ukraine on anniversary of Russian invasion
The Biden administration marked the one-year anniversary of the start of Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine by trumpeting plans to procure a variety of additional drones and other military equipment for Kyiv.
The $2 billion security assistance package announced by the Pentagon on Friday includes an unspecified quantity of JUMP 20, Switchblade 600, ALTIUS-600 and CyberLux K8 unmanned aerial systems.
The JUMP 20 is a fixed wing, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) platform that can provide “advanced multi-sensor” intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, according to manufacturer AeroVironment.
The drone has 14-plus hours of endurance, a range of 115 miles, and payload capacity of up to 30 pounds, and can be equipped with imaging sensors such as ARCAM 45D, long range EO/MWIR as well as onboard tracking, stabilization and video processing. The “runway independent” system can be set up and operational in less than an hour without the need for launch or recovery equipment, according to the company.
The ALTIUS-600, made by AREA-I, is a tube-launched drone that can be deployed from ground vehicles, aircraft, or naval platforms. It has an endurance of three to four hours and can cover distances over 200 nautical miles, with mission-specific payload configurations that can contribute to ISR, electronic warfare, counter-UAS or “kinetic” actions, according to the company.
“ALTIUS was designed with a modular payload nose to give customers an on-demand UAS solution with a sensor or payload package to meet specific mission needs,” the company said in a product description.
The Switchblade 600 is a kamikaze drone, or loitering munition, that attacks its target by crashing into it. The system weighs 120 pounds, has a 40-plus kilometer range, 40-plus minutes endurance, and a “dash” speed of 115 mph, according to manufacturer AeroVironment.
The weapon can be set up and operational in less than 10 minutes, according to the company.
“Equipped with class-leading, high-resolution EO/IR gimbaled sensors and advanced precision flight control, Switchblade 600 empowers the warfighter with quick and easy deployment via tube-launch, and the capability to fly, track and engage non-line-of-sight targets and armored vehicles with precision lethal effects without the need for external ISR or fires assets,” per the product description. “Patented wave-off and recommit capability allows operators to abort the mission at any time and then re-engage either the same or other targets multiple times based on operator command.”
Little information was immediately available about the CyberLux K8, and DefenseScoop will provide an update when it learns more about the system.
Previous security assistance package for Ukraine also included drones. As of Feb. 20, the U.S. had committing to providing more than 700 Switchblades, approximately 1,800 Phoenix Ghost loitering munitions, 15 ScanEagle systems, and an unspecified number Puma UAS, according to a Defense Department fact sheet.
The Biden administration has committed more than $32 billion in security assistance to Ukraine over the past year, according to the Pentagon.
The security assistance package for Ukraine announced on Friday also includes counter-UAS and electronic warfare detection equipment; additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS); additional 155mm artillery rounds; munitions for laser-guided rocket systems; mine clearing equipment; secure communications support equipment; and funding for training, maintenance and sustainment.
All of the weapons in the new package will be procured from contractors using Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) funds — not drawn from existing DOD stocks — which means it could take many months for them to be manufactured and delivered to Ukraine.
“Today’s solemn anniversary is an opportunity for all who believe in freedom, rules, and sovereignty to recommit ourselves to supporting Ukraine’s brave defenders for the long haul — and to recall that the stakes of Russia’s war stretch far beyond Ukraine,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement Friday.
“Putin thought that Ukraine’s defenses would collapse, that America’s resolve would falter, and that the world would look the other way. He was wrong. One year later, Ukraine’s brave defenders have not wavered, and neither has our commitment to support them for as long as it takes,” Austin added.