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By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, Rocket-Propelled Grenades, helicopter-launched Hellfire Missiles and tank rounds themselves are all known and established tank-destroying weapons proven many times in combat, yet now Ukrainians are adding air-launched anti-armor attack drones to their arsenal.

Much has been discussed regarding the success of Javelin anti-tank missiles in Ukraine as fighters stage dispersed, hit-and-run ambush tactics to cripple and destroy advancing Russian armored forces, now this attack envelope will be expanded through US-delivered Phoenix Ghost drones

Phoenix Ghost Drones 

:”It can be used for anti-armor capabilities,” a Senior Pentagon official told reporters at the Pentagon, according to a transcript.

Pentagon officials say the US is delivering as many as 121, some of which have arrived. US weapons experts are training the Ukrainians how to use them.

“The Phoenix Ghost was in development by the Air Force before the war in Ukraine, and as we began to look across the department at programs that were in various stages of development, we realized that some of the very things that we were developing the Phoenix Ghost to do would be very useful to the Ukrainians”, the official said. ”“It (Phoenix Ghost) was already in development, but as we looked at the capabilities of it, it was clear that it could be useful to them in the kind of fighting that they're doing in the Donbas”

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Video Above: The War in Donbas, Ukraine 

Certainly easily launched vertical surveillance and anti-armor attack could be extremely impactful in an urban setting where Ukrainians are fighting to repel Russian armored units. 

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Isiah Enriquez, a native of Lubbock, Texas, and a rifleman with 1st Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment (1/2), 2d Marine Division (2d MARDIV), launches a Switchblade Drone during a training exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., July 7, 2021. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Sarah Pysher

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Isiah Enriquez, a native of Lubbock, Texas, and a rifleman with 1st Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment (1/2), 2d Marine Division (2d MARDIV), launches a Switchblade Drone during a training exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., July 7, 2021. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Sarah Pysher

They could be launched from hidden locations in buildings, be used to surveil approaching enemy forces blocks or even miles away and perhaps themselves descend upon or explode Russian armored vehicles to the air. This gives Ukrainians near 360-degree attack envelope in an urban warfare setting, given that Javelins, crew-served weapons, armored vehicle cannons and other hand-held weapons can attack from the ground.

There is still much that is unknown about the Phoenix Ghost as it is a relatively new Air Force program, however it does seem well-suited for the kinds of missions likely to be performed by Ukrainians.

There seem to be yet additional uses for a drone of this kind, as it could help identify targets for ground-fired artillery on the other side of a ridge or building. Should these drones be networked to ground units, vehicles or even command and control centers, targeting data could flow quickly from point of collection to “shooter” or method of attack.

Some Russian tanks might, if even doubtful, be armed with active protection systems, most of them are not hemispheric, meaning they cannot detect against or intercept incoming attacks from overhead. Therefore, should the Phoenix Ghost operate with an ability to descend from above and explode tanks and other armored vehicles, it could potentially provide Ukrainians with a distinct advantage.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President - Center for Military Modernization