The mysterious new Phoenix Ghost UAV – also dubbed a “suicide drone” — the US supplies to Ukraine was a project overseen by a secretive Air Force office known as Big Safari, the Pentagon has revealed.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, US Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, William LaPlante, declared that the Big Safari office, headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, oversaw the research-and-development effort for the Phoenix Ghost unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), also referred to as a “suicide drone.”
“If you know anything about that office, they do lots of really great, fast-type work. They were very active during Afghanistan and Iraq” wars, LaPlante further boasted as quoted in a Sputnik News report.
The remarks came after Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby stated that a cohort of nearly 20 Ukrainian soldiers is about to wrap up a week-long training course on how to use the Phoenix Ghost drones.
Kirby had hinted last month that the new UAVs would soon be supplied to Kiev amid reports that the Ukrainian military could deploy more than 100 of the attack drones to the country’s eastern areas.
“The [US] Air Force was working on this and, in discussions with the Ukrainians again about their requirements, we believed that this particular system would very nicely suit their needs, particularly in eastern Ukraine,” Kirby said, referring to the Phoenix Ghost drone.
With the drone’s specific size, shape, payloads and capabilities yet to be unveiled, Kirby further explained that “this unmanned aerial system is designed for tactical operations.”
“In other words, largely, but not exclusively, to attack targets […]. It can also be used to give you a site picture of what it is seeing, of course. But its principal focus is attack,” he then emphasized.
Kirby also underlined that the purpose of Phoenix Ghost drone “is akin to that of the Switchblade,” which he noted is basically “a one-way drone and attack drone,” adding: “And that’s essentially what this is designed to do.”
“It provides similar capabilities to the Switchblade series of unmanned systems, similar capabilities but not exact. There are other differences in the scope of capability for the Phoenix Ghosts, but I’m just not going to be able to get into more detail about those capabilities right now,” he pointed out.
The Switchblade is a lightweight, all-electric drone, described by the US magazine Popular Mechanics as a “flying camera robot with an explosive inside […] that will help find or attack nearby enemies, not faraway ones.”