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AeroVironment Switchblade 300 loitering munitions on their way to Ukraine

The U.S. is sending 100 Switchblade loitering munitions (unmanned systems) to the Ukrainians, said Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby echoed by C. Todd Lopez, US DoD News, on April 6, adding that those "suicide drones" are already in Ukraine or will be arriving there shortly.  "We're in discussions with Ukrainians about future ... usages of Switchblade drones, and of course we'll keep that option open going forward," he said. 
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Switchblade 300 loitering munition (or "suicide drone") (Picture source: AeroVironment)

Along with the $300 million in military assistance announced last month, Kirby said, the total U.S. security assistance commitment to Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion has been more than $1.7 billion. "The United States, along with our allies and partners, will continue to work closely with our Ukrainian partners to evaluate their specific requirements, to ensure that our assistance Kirby told reporters the training mentioned by Austin and Milley involved a small number of Ukrainian soldiers who are already in the U.S. and have been in the U.S. since the fall for professional military education.  "We took the opportunity to ... give them a couple of days' worth of training on the Switchblade so that they can go back, and they will be going back soon, back home, to train others in the Ukrainian military," Kirby said. "We'll look at other suitable opportunities if needed to provide more training on the Switchblades if it's necessary."

Ukrainian soldiers do not typically use the Switchblade, Kirby said, and because of this, some amount of training will be needed to familiarize them with this system, as was mentioned during testimony on Capitol Hill yesterday by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley: "It is not a very complex system", Kirby said. "It doesn't require a lot of training. An individual could be suitably trained on how to use a Switchblade drone in about two days or so." 

An additional $100 million in presidential drawdown to support Ukraine was approved on April 5. Part of that will be used to provide additional FGM-148 Javelin anti-armor systems to Ukrainian forces, said Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby on April 6. "This $100 million is designed to help us meet an urgent Ukrainian need for additional Javelin anti-armor systems, which the United States has been providing to Ukraine," Kirby said during a press briefing at the Pentagon on April 6. "They've been used very effectively to combat the Russian attack on the Ukrainian homeland". 

Kirby said that the total number of Javelin systems being sent to Ukraine doesn't necessarily match a specific type of target, such as Russian tanks, for instance. Instead, he said, the Javelin, while designed for anti-armor use, is fairly versatile: " They can be used on other vehicles as well and even fixed targets if need be," Kirby said. "And there have been thousands of Javelins that we have provided to Ukraine and we know they're using them. You can see the evidence for yourself when you look at the videos and the images on TV of these burnt-out tanks and burnt-out trucks and armored personnel carriers." 

Kirby told reporters this is the sixth drawdown of equipment from U.S. DOD inventories for Ukraine since August of 2021. A "drawdown," according to the documentation available from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, allows the president in certain circumstances — including for such things as peacekeeping operations, narcotics control, international disaster assistance, antiterrorism assistance, nonproliferation assistance, migration and refugee assistance — to withdraw weapons, ammunitions and material from existing U.S. military stocks and provide that to other nations.   


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