MQ-1C Grey Eagle for Ukraine?

Flyaway

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I don’t want to start a new thread just for this so I shall put it here.

The US is considering supplying Ukraine with 4 GA MQ-1C Grey Eagle drones which would make them the largest drones in Ukraine’s forces. The deal is subject to Congressional approval, and is also not a finalised administration decision. Sounds like Hellfires will be part of the package.

 

Flyaway

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Flyaway

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It seems the Grey Eagle drone sale to Ukraine may now not take place due to the fact that no one in the administration seems to have considered the possibility of the sophisticated technology they carry falling into Russian hands until someone pointed it out to them. TBH this looks to be an intractable issue.

The Biden administration's plan to sell four large, armable drones to Ukraine has been paused on the fear its sophisticated surveillance equipment might fall into enemy hands, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The technical objection to the sale was raised during a deeper review by the Pentagon's Defense Technology Security Administration charged with keeping high value technology safe from enemy hands. Previously the plan, which has been circulating since March, had been approved by the White House, three people said.
The objection to the export of the drones arose due to concerns the radar and surveillance equipment on the drones could create a security risk for the United States if it fell into Russian hands.

The sources said this consideration had been overlooked in the initial review but came up in meetings at the Pentagon late last week.
"Technology security reviews are a standard practice for the transfer of U.S. defense articles to all international partners. All cases are reviewed individually on their own merit. Through the established process, national security concerns are elevated to the appropriate approving authority," said Pentagon spokesperson Sue Gough.

The decision on whether or not to continue with the deal is now being reviewed higher up the chain of command at the Pentagon, but the timing of any decision is uncertain, one of the people a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.
 

Maro.Kyo

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It seems the Grey Eagle drone sale to Ukraine may now not take place due to the fact that no one in the administration seems to have considered the possibility of the sophisticated technology they carry falling into Russian hands until someone pointed it out to them. TBH this looks to be an intractable issue.

Wonder how the retired AF MQ-1s are doing. I know that Pentagon planned not to transfer any of those drones overseas, and some say it is irreversibly scrapped but the sensory and communication equipment on those planes should at least be less sensitive I'd assume?
 

Flyaway

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It seems the Grey Eagle drone sale to Ukraine may now not take place due to the fact that no one in the administration seems to have considered the possibility of the sophisticated technology they carry falling into Russian hands until someone pointed it out to them. TBH this looks to be an intractable issue.

Wonder how the retired AF MQ-1s are doing. I know that Pentagon planned not to transfer any of those drones overseas, and some say it is irreversibly scrapped but the sensory and communication equipment on those planes should at least be less sensitive I'd assume?
I am not sure if I missed this paragraph or the article has now been updated. I think it maybe the latter.

One solution to move the sale forward would be to swap out the existing radar and sensor package for something less sophisticated, but that could take months to complete, one of the sources.

If the case to sell the drones is allowed to progress, Congress would be given a chance to block it, though that was seen as unlikely.

The four General Atomics-made Gray Eagle drones were originally slated to go to the U.S. Army, people familiar with the process said.
 

Flyaway

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Decent summing up of the complexities around the sale of The Grey Eagle drone to Ukraine.

However, others have sounded a note of caution. While the Gray Eagle might carry much more sophisticated defensive aids than the Bayraktar TB-2, some doubt whether it would survive dense air defenses that now protect Russian forces.

“It’s a good system with potent sensors,” tweeted defense analyst Justin Bronk of thinktank RUSI. “However, stand-off range of Hellfire is only +/- 8km and MQ-1C has limited ability to survive against dense Russian SAM cover and fighters over frontline areas.”

 

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It seems unlikely any known MALE drone would be effective now that the front lines have stabilized and are within medium/long ranged SAM coverage. I suspect the only reason TB-2s enjoyed so much initial success was because the BTGs outran everything but their organic AD which was generally limited to short ranged Pantsir systems. We haven't really been seeing footage released from these platforms recently, and the most recent footage I've see was from Snake island away from long ranged SAMs. Seems doubtful any US drone would be measurably more survivable.
 

totoro

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To my knowledge, ad systems organic to btg are Tor or Osa, strela10 and/or Tunguska.
 

TomcatViP

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We should not underestimate the paradigm of enduring flight time Vs manned systems. 30 hrs of flight time give some opportunities to outlast/surprise any system, including any IADS today.
 

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There are roles we're overlooking, like monitoring borders away from the active zones.
 

greedo

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To my knowledge, ad systems organic to btg are Tor or Osa, strela10 and/or Tunguska.
Pantsir has replaced Tunguska, at least theoretically. I'm sure some Tunguska systems have been deployed due to attrition of Pantsir however.
 

totoro

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I am not sure that pantsir is given to army. Most systems I know of went to air force, to complement s300 units. Someone who knows Russian army orbat by heart would be more qualified to answer.
 

TomS

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I am not sure that pantsir is given to army. Most systems I know of went to air force, to complement s300 units. Someone who knows Russian army orbat by heart would be more qualified to answer.

Ukraine captured quite a few Pantsir units early on in the invasion, suggesting it wasn't just reserved for rear-area defense of long-range SAMs.

 

Josh_TN

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To my knowledge, ad systems organic to btg are Tor or Osa, strela10 and/or Tunguska.
I can believe that; I’ve only seen some graphical org charts of what a “typical” BTG has attached, and those listed Pantsir. But BTG TO&E varies widely. I should perhaps just said “short ranged” and left it at that.

Also, Osa still? I didn’t think that was in front line service with Russia. The examples I’ve seen were tentatively ID’d as Ukrainian.
 

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For what it's worth, oryx says the following air defense assets have been documented as lost in Ukraine:
3 btr-zd
4 shilka
6 Osa
7 pantsir
8 tunguska
13 strela10
15 tor
26 various buk system vehicles
 

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That seems ambitious. Although reading up, there is an EW and ESM package that can geolocate emitters, and hence ships entering the range of AShMs from afar, and also pin-point air defence radars too. So my guess is that it'll be used in the CEASAR (Communications, Electronic Attack Surveillance and Reconnaissance) role, finding targets for Harpoon and HIMARS.
 

TomcatViP

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The point is to switch drone from visual to ELINT detection and acquisition. Also an MQ-1 can probably outflank all the Russian IADS by flying far out over the black sea before turning back.
 

TomcatViP

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Officially there no transfer of target coordinates. I guess that MQ-1 in Ukraine would do that for the Ukrainians.
 

Forest Green

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The point is to switch drone from visual to ELINT detection and acquisition. Also an MQ-1 can probably outflank all the Russian IADS by flying far out over the black sea before turning back.
But won't there be ships in the Black Sea? Or are we now assuming their radars don't work?
 

TomcatViP

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I am not sure that the Russian Black sea fleet has enough ships to effectively detect anything flying there.

When you are pressured on your coasts by an enemy that have superiority in numbers, the best to do is to extend the fight out to sea. Far out if you can.

I am convinced it's true for Taiwan. I expect that to be a good strategy also for Ukraine.

They need Exocet, Caracal& Pumas... And, why not, half a squadron of Mirage F-1 ;)

There is so much thing that France can do there...
 

Forest Green

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I am not sure that the Russian Black sea fleet has enough ships to effectively detect anything flying there.

When you are pressured on your coasts by an enemy that have superiority in numbers, the best to do is to extend the fight out to sea. Far out if you can.

I am convinced it's true for Taiwan. I expect that to be a good strategy also for Ukraine.

They need Exocet, Caracal& Pumas... And, why not, half a squadron of Mirage F-1 ;)

There is so much thing that France can do there...
MQ-1Cs are hardly disposal at $40m though.
 

Ainen

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It seems unlikely any known MALE drone would be effective now that the front lines have stabilized and are within medium/long ranged SAM coverage. I suspect the only reason TB-2s enjoyed so much initial success was because the BTGs outran everything but their organic AD which was generally limited to short ranged Pantsir systems. We haven't really been seeing footage released from these platforms recently, and the most recent footage I've see was from Snake island away from long ranged SAMs. Seems doubtful any US drone would be measurably more survivable.
offtop: Existing Pantsir is by definition not an integral AD - for a simple reason, it is a VKS system.
Thor is the army one(also a direct replacement for old Osa).

Russian/Ukrainian (i.e. two largest post-Soviet)AD networks are confusing for a western observer, but basically you have two fully parallel lines of AD systems with different properties - one is tailor-tuned for 24/7 protection of own soil against enemy incursions, the other one is far more mobile and survivable, and protects ground forces in the field.
(just to make matters more confusing - navy also has its own ground AD units)

The point is to switch drone from visual to ELINT detection and acquisition. Also an MQ-1 can probably outflank all the Russian IADS by flying far out over the black sea before turning back.
Not sure it'll outflank scrambled fighters. It's a pretty big and expensive aircraft in its own right, well worth a sortie.
 

timmymagic

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MQ-1Cs are hardly disposal at $40m though.
To be honest I don't know why the US is sending them.
There are c100 MQ-1 Predator in storage, nothing to be worried about if they get shot down...

From the last few weeks of operations its a fair bet that Bayraktar's are not in fact some sort of invulnerable, stealthy UCAV like some of their more feverish proponents believed (they never were)...all the surveillance footage seen has been from extreme distance and slant ranges which only means one thing...the Russian's have got their AD sorted and the Ukrainian's have lost a few TB2's and have been forced to pull them back.
 

Josh_TN

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It seems unlikely any known MALE drone would be effective now that the front lines have stabilized and are within medium/long ranged SAM coverage. I suspect the only reason TB-2s enjoyed so much initial success was because the BTGs outran everything but their organic AD which was generally limited to short ranged Pantsir systems. We haven't really been seeing footage released from these platforms recently, and the most recent footage I've see was from Snake island away from long ranged SAMs. Seems doubtful any US drone would be measurably more survivable.
offtop: Existing Pantsir is by definition not an integral AD - for a simple reason, it is a VKS system.
Thor is the army one(also a direct replacement for old Osa).

Russian/Ukrainian (i.e. two largest post-Soviet)AD networks are confusing for a western observer, but basically you have two fully parallel lines of AD systems with different properties - one is tailor-tuned for 24/7 protection of own soil against enemy incursions, the other one is far more mobile and survivable, and protects ground forces in the field.
(just to make matters more confusing - navy also has its own ground AD units)

The point is to switch drone from visual to ELINT detection and acquisition. Also an MQ-1 can probably outflank all the Russian IADS by flying far out over the black sea before turning back.
Not sure it'll outflank scrambled fighters. It's a pretty big and expensive aircraft in its own right, well worth a sortie.

Pantsir started out as an airbase defense system but I’m quite sure it was adopted by the Russian army as well. There certainly have been units captured deep inside Ukraine. Tor does seem to be the Osa replacement though I haven’t seen as many of them documented.
 
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Ainen

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Pantsir started out as an airbase defense system but I’m quite sure it was adopted by the Russian army as well. There certainly have been units captured deep inside Ukraine. Tor does seem to be the Osa replacement though I haven’t seen as many of them documented.
Pantsirs in Army in Ukraine were clearly attached to columns give modern protection to units that don't have something adequate of their own: everyone saw Karabakh, and everyone remembers that Osa simply can't reach the TB2 at altitude. After the end of mad column rush, they seem to be withdrawn to fulfill their original purpose - point defense of either higher-level assets or of key locations in general.

At least as of summer 2022, that's the state of affairs.
 

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