What is the Phoenix Ghost killer drone the US is giving Ukraine?

Latest 'kamikaze'-style drone rapidly developed for use in Ukraine as outnumbered troops try to punch back against Russian forces

File footage released by a Ukrainian commander purportedly showing a February 27 Ukrainian drone strike against a Russian missile system. Reuters

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Part of President Joe Biden’s latest package of military aid for Ukraine is a new type of killer drone known as the Phoenix Ghost that the US Air Force quickly developed and is well-suited for use by Ukrainian forces as they combat Russia, the Pentagon said.

The new weapon is similar in capability to the Switchblade drones the US has already supplied to the Ukrainian military, a senior US defence official told Pentagon reporters.

Switchblades are known as “kamikaze” drones, as they are designed to make a one-way trip to their target, exploding on impact.

The Phoenix Ghost “provides the same sort of tactical capability that a Switchblade does", the official said.

“It clearly is designed to deliver a punch.”

The Pentagon will ship more than 121 of the new Phoenix Ghost drones to Ukraine, Mr Biden announced on Thursday.

It will be up to the Ukrainian authorities where and how to deploy them, the Pentagon added.

The US defence official had "no idea" how the drone got its name and said “minimal training is required” on the Phoenix Ghosts, referencing slight differences in capability compared to the Switchblade, without providing details.

The drones were built by AEVEX Aerospace, Bloomberg reported, and were “rapidly developed by the air force in response specifically to Ukrainian requirements", Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

Switchblades extend the range of attack on Russian vehicles and units to beyond the sight of the user.

That gives them an advantage over the guided heat-seeking missiles the Ukrainians have used against Russian tanks.

On Friday, Mr Kirby said the drone was not specifically developed for Ukraine but its features meet many of the Ukrainian military's needs.

"It was already under development by the US Air Force and the kinds of capabilities that we were developing it for happened to be very appropriate to the kind of fighting that that we anticipate is going to go on in the Donbas region," Mr Kirby said.

Updated: April 22, 2022, 10:09 PM
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