Why Hasn't the US Transferred MQ-9 Reaper to Ukraine for 2 Years Despite Drone Surplus?

MQ-9 Reaper drone / Photo credit:  US DoD
MQ-9 Reaper drone / Photo credit: US DoD

What real basis could there be for this story?

The American publication Politico stated in one of its publications that Ukraine continues to request MQ-9 Reaper reconnaissance drones from the United States. However, the White House is still deliberating whether to fulfill such a request, which has been voiced from the Ukrainian side since April 2022.

If initially Ukraine was interested in such drones for conducting strike and patrol missions, now the request for MQ-9 Reaper drones is aimed at performing reconnaissance tasks.

Read more: Why First Road Takeoff and Landing of U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper UAV is Vital for Ukraine

And more specifically - to expand the capabilities for the Ukrainian Defense Forces to detect russian army objects along the front line. This will enable improving the effectiveness of the reconnaissance-strike contour, which includes the same M142 HIMARS and other missile systems in the Ukrainian Armed Forces' arsenal.

MQ-9 Reaper drone, Defense Express
MQ-9 Reaper drone / Photo credit: US DoD

However, the United States refuses to transfer such UAVs to Ukraine, arguing that MQ-9 Reaper drones could be shot down. And here the situation looks absurd from all sides.

First and foremost, Ukraine has been requesting a sample of UAVs from the United States for over two years now amid russia's full-scale invasion. This request remains relevant all this time, even with some changes in functionality, yet it is not satisfied under formal pretexts.

The argument itself for not providing MQ-9 Reaper to the Ukrainian Armed Forces from the US side also seems odd, especially considering that UAVs are precisely designed to operate in high-risk zones with a high level of air defense systems saturation and other threats.

MQ-9 Reaper with AIM-9X Block 2, Defense Express
MQ-9 Reaper with AIM-9X Block 2 / Photo credit: US DoD

Finally, the argument about the possibility of being shot down as a reason to say "no" to Ukraine in the request for MQ-9 Reaper could sound justified if it were about a scarce UAV prototype where the loss of each unit could be a problem.

However, here the situation is exactly the opposite. For example, in April 2023, the Pentagon was already reminded about fifty MQ-9 Reapers that are being phased out of service. They could have been transferred to the Armed Forces of Ukraine as a supplement to the F-16.

In October 2023, the manufacturer of these UAVs, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI), once again presented another proposal for a favorable deal to transfer MQ-9 Reaper drones to Ukraine, with only one obstacle in the way of its implementation - the position of the US government on this issue.

The timeliness of receiving reconnaissance data is also an important factor in enemy destruction, as is the sufficient quantity of ammunition of the required type.

The transfer of the MQ-9 Reaper to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, even just as a reconnaissance tool, could significantly improve the speed of gathering necessary information. And why the USA still refuse to provide such a tool to our military – that's a separate strange and mysterious story.

Even more so, since the MQ-9 Reaper cannot be considered difficult to master. This is evidenced in particular by the example of Great Britain, where the training program for such UAVs lasts a total of 3.5 months.

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