Ukrainian soldiers are being trained in the United States to operate the deadly Switchblade drones Washington supplies to kyiv, a Pentagon official said Wednesday.
Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said it was a “very small” number of Ukrainian soldiers who were already in the United States before Russia invaded their country.
“We took the opportunity, having them still in the country, to give them a few days of training on the Switchblades, so that they could go back…to train others in the Ukrainian army,” according to Kirby.
He said the 100 drones, which are essentially remote-controlled flying bombs that crash into targets where they explode, were sent to Ukraine to bolster the military’s fight against Russian troops.
“They got there earlier this week, so they’ll get into Ukraine quickly if they’re not there already,” Kirby said, adding that the number of Ukrainian trainees was less than a dozen.
President Joe Biden announced on March 16 that, among other weapons and ammunition Washington was shipping to Ukrainians, he would begin shipping the Switchblades.
Named after the way their wings fan out when thrown, Switchblades are called roving ammo because they can fly to target areas and stay there until the right time when a target is identified.
The operator then flies them into the target where they explode.
The original version, small enough to carry in a backpack, was used by US forces in Afghanistan.
A larger version, with enough explosives to knock out armored vehicles, was also developed. But the Pentagon would not say which one was sent to Ukraine, if not both.
Meanwhile, the United States announced on Tuesday that it was releasing an additional $100 million in military aid to Ukraine as its forces expelled Russians from the kyiv region.
Six weeks after Russia invaded and attempted to quickly capture the capital, Kirby said they had failed and had “completely withdrawn” from the kyiv region as well as Chernigiv to the north.
Moscow has indicated it is preparing to intensify fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine, where its forces hold large chunks of territory.
But Kirby said the Pentagon has yet to see a significant influx of reinforcements to that region, particularly the pro-Moscow Donbas region.
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