Speed Reads

'less than a dozen'

U.S. is training Ukrainians to use their new Switchblade drones, discussing fuel needs, Pentagon says

The Biden administration approved another $100 million in military assistance for Ukraine this week and announced that it has sent Ukraine 100 Switchblade drones, a type of light "kamikaze" drone that can be outfitted with explosives and flown into enemy targets.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday that Ukraine has a particularly "urgent" need for Javelin portable anti-tank systems, and a senior Pentagon official elaborated that the "urgent need for Javelins" and the larger $100 million package is because "Ukrainians wanted to make sure that they're ready for increased Russian activity" in the Donbas. Kirby also said the U.S. military has trained a "very small number" of Ukrainian soldiers in the U.S. to use the Switchback drones.

This "very small number" of Ukrainians, "less than a dozen," were already in the U.S. for professional training, "and we took advantage of the opportunity to pull them aside for a couple of days and provide them some training, particularly on the Switchblade UAVs," the senior Pentagon official said. "That is a system that is not organic to the Ukrainian military," though it's "not a very difficult system to operate," and "our expectation is that these individuals will be heading back into Ukraine relatively soon, as they were originally anyway."

The U.S. has been getting the weapons to Ukraine "incredibly fast," anywhere from "four to six days has been the average of getting stuff from literally, from taking off from the states and getting into Ukrainian hands," the Pentagon official said. Such transfers have "never been done that fast before," Kirby agreed.

The Pentagon official also suggested that the U.S. might help Ukraine's military with fuel, since Russia has been targeting fuel depots. "I will just tell you that we have had discussions with the Ukrainians about fuel needs and fuel requirements. And those discussions are ongoing. And I'll leave it at that." 

That comment deserves "special notice," tweeted Phillips O'Brien, a professor of strategic studies at Scotland's University of St. Andrews. It "looks like the U.S. is going to do what they can to get them the fuel to operate. Maintaining Ukrainian mobility in the Donbas will be crucial."