WASHINGTON ― The Defense Department has awarded the first contract of the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative’s $300 million budget for this year, a $19.7 million deal with AeroVironment for a small, hand-launched surveillance drone called the RQ-20 Puma AE.
The award came April 12, just days after the Defense Department announced it would contract with the defense industry for equipment for Ukraine. That’s in contrast with other recent military aid packages, which have been made up of equipment drawn from existing U.S. military supplies. A senior Pentagon official confirmed Wednesday the new award is for Ukraine.
U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command awarded AeroVironment, of Simi Valley, Calif., the contract for RQ-20 Puma AE systems, along “with reconnaissance surveillance and target acquisition kits, initial spares package, contractor logistics support and new equipment training for the country of Ukraine.” Work is due to be complete by May 30.
The drone has a range of about 12 miles and its battery provides more than three hours of flight time, according to a company fact sheet. It has a wingspan of about 9 feet and weighs 14 pounds ― with its electro-optical and infrared camera and illuminator on a mechanical gimbaled payload.
The $300 million package is set to also include the AeroVironment-made Switchblade unmanned aircraft, armored Humvees, laser-guided rocket systems, night vision devices and ammunition. Also included are secure communications systems, machine guns and commercial satellite imagery services.
Since Feb. 24, the U.S. has provided $2.6 billion in security assistance to Ukrainian forces, most from U.S. military stockpiles.
Though the Pentagon and industry are wrestling with how to ramp up production to continue supplying Ukraine, the U.S. and other allies, AeroVironment told Defense News earlier this month it has production capacity to spare for the Puma and the Switchblade.
The Pentagon has acknowledged the U.S. trained a “very small” group of Ukrainian troops on the Switchblade. It said those troops were already present in the U.S. before Russia invaded Ukraine.
Jen Judson contributed to this report.
Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.