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The US uses Ukraine as a test lab for drones – Russia will not forget that

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An analysis by Scott Ritter

If this news is true, this latest shipment of weapons would require special authorization from both the US State Department and the US Congress, as a law restricts the supply of weaponized drones to only the closest US allies. If this approval is granted, Ukrainian operators will receive a crash course in operating this drone, which is expected to take a few weeks – while the normal training time for an MQ-1C operator is several months. This means that the first deployment of an MQ-1C Gray Eagle is expected sometime during the coming July at the earliest.

The MQ-1C Gray Eagle is the successor to the RQ/MQ-5 Hunter tactical unmanned aerial vehicle developed jointly by the US Army and US Marine Corps. While the development program began in 1989, the weapons system reached maturity in the years following the September 11 attacks. As a result, the Hunter drone was developed as a weapon system designed not to operate in, say, a conflict with the Soviet Union, but in the much “softer environment” of the global war on terrorism.

The operational history of the Hunter weapon reflects this. During testing in 2002, Hunters were used to fire BAT submunitions – an excellent anti-tank weapon that would have been capable of destroying Russian armored vehicles. By the time the system was deployed in 2005, however, the drones had been modified to fire laser-guided bombs against insurgent forces in Iraq. The nature of the perceived threat had altered the weapon system’s operational doctrine, from hitting a moving target in a hostile environment to the ability to loiter unperturbed by any threat in the sky and deliver precisely-guided strikes against a static enemy.

The demands of the global “war on terror” quickly exceeded the capabilities of the fighters. As early as 2002, the US Army began looking for a replacement capable of carrying multiple payloads that would allow it to combine reconnaissance, surveillance, and targeting. At the same time, the drone should be able to serve as a communications relay, for radio reconnaissance and electronic warfare, as well as for detecting booby traps and assessing the damage of an attacked target – in short: with the long-range MQ-1C drone, they wanted an all-rounder.

The main factor behind the development of a successor to the Hunter flying robot was the assumption of operation in a threat-free environment, which should make it possible to fulfill the multitude of assigned missions. The MQ-1C was selected from a variety of competing models and in 2009 the US Army began entering service with it. By 2010, the MQ-1C was deployed in both Iraq and Afghanistan, with the weapon system of choice being the Hellfire laser-guided missile – although the Gray Eagle system can be armed with Stinger missiles designed for use against flying objects are configured, as well as the GBU-44 laser-guided glide bomb.

As effective as the Gray Eagle was against Iraqi insurgents, the Afghan Taliban and ISIS terrorists, there was growing recognition within the US Army that the drone met the requirements of what the US military called a “large-scale combat operation”. , is not up to par, especially not against a so-called “fight in the future” against an equal opponent like Russia. The weapon’s sensors, which had proved effective and deadly in fighting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, would no longer be of any use in a fight against the Russian army. If you can see the enemy, you have to assume to Russian forces that the enemy can see and kill too. If the Gray Eagle drone is to survive and compete on a modern battlefield, it will require entirely new weapon sensors capable of targeting in support of long-range precision artillery.

According to a US Army tender, the new Gray Eagles must be able to survive in a “densely deployed and coordinated anti-aircraft environment” by “flying route patterns tangential to the anti-aircraft threat 80 kilometers away” and so-called “in “Air-launched effect systems” – mini-drones equipped with sensors – into enemy territory to “detect, identify and locate targets for subsequent destruction”. The US military does not currently have such capabilities, which means that the Gray Eagles provided by the US to Ukraine are not configured to fight on a modern battlefield, the Russo-Ukrainian battlefield and to to survive.

The MQ-1C is about twice the size of the most widely used drone that has served with the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2. While the TB2 had some success in Libya, Syria and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and also performed well against Russia in the first phase of Russia’s military special operation, Russia was able to strengthen its air defenses and eventually shoot down 35 of the 36 deployed TB2s.

It is very likely that the MQ-1C Gray Eagle will suffer a similar fate.

But of course this can also be the intention of the USA. The number of Gray Eagles to be shipped to Ukraine – four in number – is small. And even if these could survive on the battlefield, they would have no discernible impact on the course of the conflict. But if Gray Eagle operations against Russian forces in Ukraine are viewed as a laboratory for developing tactics to defeat Russian air defenses in the future, for the price of four MQ-1C Gray Eagles, the US could buy hundreds of Save millions of dollars in research and development expenses.

Ukraine is losing the war against Russia, and no amount of military equipment supplied to Ukrainian fighters by the US and other Western nations will be able to change that outcome. The US knows this, and so one must question the usefulness of deploying such a high-tech system as the MQ-1C Gray Eagle in such limited numbers and at this stage of the conflict. The only sane answer is that the US is trying to use the Russian operation as a test lab, where the “rats” are Russian and Ukrainian soldiers. The cynicism of such an exercise is amazing. Ukrainians should remember this when calculating the ultimate cost of this NATO-led conflict. And Russia should never forget – or forgive – this when dealing with the US in the future.

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RT DE strives for a broad range of opinions. Guest posts and opinion pieces do not have to reflect the editor’s point of view.

Translated from English.

Scott Knight is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer. He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector in the implementation of the INF treaty, on General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War and as UN weapons inspector from 1991 to 1998. You can follow him on Telegram.

Mahadi Hassan is the OopsTop best article writer of Heaven Is for Real and Same Kind of Different As Me. The author or co-author of two Websites, Mahadi has sold 12 million copies since 2006. He worked for eleven years as a writer and editor at the national news biweekly WORLD magazine.

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