U.S. defense officials will soon send portable counter-drone weapon systems—known as VAMPIRE—to Ukraine, according to a top Pentagon official.
The news comes eight months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where the use of combat drones continues to escalate.
VAMPIRE—short for Vehicle-Agnostic Modular Palletized Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Rocket Equipment—is a portable weapons system that can target combat drones from the bed of a pickup truck. The system is effective for both airborne and ground targets, according to its manufacturer, L3Harris.
“We do know that…Iran has provided Russia with UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles, which we anticipate they’ll likely seek more of those,” Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters Tuesday. “In terms of air defense capabilities, this continues to be a priority for the U.S. government, for the Department of Defense to work closely with the Ukrainians, with our allies and our partners to try to get them additional air defense capability.”
The Pentagon expects a VAMPIRE contract award within the next few months, Ryder said, adding, “And then right now we’re anticipating delivery to be mid 2023.”
Earlier last month in an address to the Group of Seven leaders, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a plea for increased air defense because of Russia’s use of combat drones against Ukraine’s infrastructure.
“I thank everyone who has already helped us secure our air defense system, which allows us to neutralize some of the Russian missiles and drones,” Zelensky said in the October 11 address. “But, according to our intelligence, Russia ordered 2,400 ‘Shaheds’ [loitering drones] alone from Iran.”
The White House confirmed late last month that Russia was deploying Iranian Shahed drones in Ukraine.
The Shahed drones may be launched from a distance, are capable of loitering over a target area for some time, and are a challenge to detect, CNN reported.
“We know that those drones have been used to target civilians and civilian infrastructure,” U.S. envoy to Iran Rob Malley told CNN. “And we know that Iran, in the face of all of this evidence, keeps lying and denying that it’s happening.’’