US Sending Phoenix Ghost Drones, Recycled Russian Tanks to Ukraine in Latest Round of Arms

phoenix ghost russian T-72 tanks

The US will send a slew of arms including 1,000 Phoenix Ghost drones to Ukraine. The Pentagon will also pay to rehab 45 tanks owned by the Czech Republic to be handed over to Ukraine. Ministry of Defense of Ukraine photo.

Ministry of Defense of Ukraine photo.

As early as December, Russian tanks will be rolling through Ukraine — sent by the Pentagon.

The Pentagon announced Friday, Nov. 4, that it would pay to rehab 45 aging Soviet-era T-72 tanks currently owned by the Czech Republic for use by Ukraine.

The Netherlands, the Pentagon said, would pay to revive 45 more.

The end result will be 90 T-72 tanks headed to Ukraine, where troops are already familiar with the Soviet-era machinery. T-72s were long the main battle tank for both Ukraine and Russia before the Russian invasion in February.

T-72 tanks

Ukrainian tanks perform reserve training near Luhansk on April 1, 2021. Ministry of Defense of Ukraine photo.

Ministry of Defense of Ukraine photo.

Some of the tanks will be available to Ukraine before the end of December, with additional deliveries to be completed by next year, according to the press release.

The refurbishing effort will be part of a new $400 million arms package announced last week.

The open-source tracking site Oryx says Russia has lost at least 1,420 tanks during the invasion, including over 600 T-72s.

Oryx has counted at least 341 lost Ukrainian tanks, including fewer than 100 T-72s.

On the other end of the technology spectrum, the Pentagon said it will also be sending over a thousand Phoenix Ghost drones, advanced unmanned flying systems that dive into their target carrying a bomb.

The drones, defense officials have said, were rapidly developed in the spring and over the summer by Air Force officials working directly with input and specifications from Ukrainian military officials. The systems are built by Aevex Aerospace, a California company.

Though little is known about the Phoenix Ghost, it is believed to be similar to the Switchblade drone, a one-time-use system that flies and targets like a drone, sending video back to a remote operator. Once deployed, it crashes into its target, detonating an explosive warhead.

drones, T-72 tanks

Drones like the Switchblade, pictured, and Phoenix Ghost have been sent to Ukraine by the hundreds. They can be flown by an operator for hours before dive-bombing into a target. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alexis Moradian.

US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alexis Moradian.

All such tactical drones can generally be fired by a handful of soldiers or even one soldier with very little preparation or support. Politico reported that the Phoenix Ghost is capable of engaging medium armored ground targets, can take off vertically, and can fly for more than six hours, including at night.

The full list of new equipment includes:

  • 45 refurbished Czech-owned, US-subsidized T-72B tanks with advanced optics, communications, and armor packages (45 more provided by the Netherlands).
  • 1,100 Phoenix Ghost tactical unmanned aerial systems.
  • 40 armored riverine boats.
  • Funding to refurbish 250 M-1117 armored security vehicles.
  • Tactical secure communications systems and surveillance systems.
  • Funding to refurbish HAWK air defense missiles for inclusion in future presidential drawdown packages.
  • Funding for training, maintenance, and sustainment.

While previous arms packages have been so-called drawdowns — shipping arms directly from US military stocks to Ukraine — this round will be provided as direct purchases from manufacturers.
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Matt White is a senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. He was a Pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years and has more than a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism. He also teaches journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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