US Includes ScanEagle ISR Drones in Ukraine’s Latest Aid Package

A new $775 million security package to help Ukraine fight Russia includes 15 ScanEagle unmanned aerial systems for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance that a Pentagon official said “will enable the targeting of the whole host of artillery capabilities that Ukraine has available.”

The official said in a press briefing Aug. 19, announcing the latest round of aid, that the ScanEagle systems will “give Ukraine additional ISR to conduct better reconnaissance around the front lines.” It was the first time the U.S. provided ScanEagles, but “another ally … is also providing” the system. The official was unaware of whether ScanEagles had “actually been fielded yet from that ally.”

A mobile USAF ScanEagle system includes four aircraft weighing just under 40 pounds each launched by catapult and recovered after catching on a rope hanging from a 30- to 50-foot pole, according to a USAF fact sheet. It includes ground control and a remote video terminal.

The Air Force says it uses the system, equipped with a camera and thermal imager, for “real-time, direct situational awareness and force protection information for Air Force security forces expeditionary teams.”

Insitu, a Boeing subsidiary, makes the ScanEagle system. Boeing says the system is in service in more than 20 countries plus commercially, with more than 48,000 shipboard flight hours with the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy since 2004. The vehicles can fly at 15,000 feet for more than 24 hours.

The U.S. contribution to Ukraine’s defense now amounts to $10.6 billion—$9.9 billion of it since Russia invaded Feb. 24—according to a fact sheet summarizing the aid as of Aug. 19. In all, UASs have included:

  • 15 ScanEagles
  • more than 700 Switchblades
  • about 700 Phoenix Ghosts
  • Pumas (no number given). 

In terms of Ukraine’s progress, “We haven’t seen a significant retake of territory, but we do see a significant weakening of Russian positions in a variety of locations,” the official said.

The latest round of aid includes:

  • Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS)
  • 16 105mm Howitzers and 36,000 105mm artillery rounds
  • 15 ScanEagle unmanned aerial systems
  • 40 MaxxPro Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAP) with mine rollers
  • Additional High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARM)
  • 50 armored High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV)
  • 1,500 Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided (TOW) missiles
  • 1,000 Javelin anti-armor systems
  • 2,000 anti-armor rounds
  • Mine clearing equipment and systems
  • Demolition munitions
  • Tactical secure communications systems
  • Night-vision devices, thermal imagery systems, optics, and laser rangefinders.