SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – The Pentagon is sending a secretive new attack drone to Ukraine to help in the fight against Russia, and it was developed by a company based in Solana Beach.
The Phoenix Ghost, made by Aevex Aerospace, is so secretive there are no official photos or videos of the drone, but according to Pentagon officials, it operates similarly to Switchblades.
The U.S. has sent more than 1,000 Switchblade drones to the Ukrainian army. The drones, made by AeroVironment in Arlington, Virginia, are called Switchblades because of the way their propellers rapidly unfold after they are fired from a launcher tube.
Aevex has about 600 employees working on several defense and commercial projects, including the Ghost.
“The reason that we exist is to empower people to make the world a safer place. And that's exactly what we're doing with the Phoenix Ghost program,” said CEO Brian Raduenz.
Raduenz is a former Air Force Lt. Colonel who helped oversee the flagship Predator drone during his service in the military.
“We have a lot of experience in unmanned aircraft and drone technologies, dating back to the origins of the company,” he said.
He would not provide specifics about the Ghost or its capabilities.
Switchblades can be carried in a backpack and have the explosive punch to knock holes in a tank. The drones are fired out of a tube and mounted with cameras and warheads. Once the human operator finds a target, the drone dive bombs it and detonates.
“The benefit of those is you can ‘shoot and scoot,’ as they say. You can shoot the weapon and then leave so that you can't be targeted,” said national security expert Ron Bee.
These drones are “loitering weapons” that can hang in the sky for an extended period and verify targets before attacking them, he said. The Switchblade can hover for about 30 minutes. There are reports the Ghost can stay airborne for several hours.
“This is cutting-edge drone technology that has not been used before in Ukraine. So this is a big step by the Biden administration to buy these weapons,” said Bee.
The Biden Administration announced it will send 121 Phoenix Ghosts to Ukraine.