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British undersea mine-hunter drones go to Ukraine

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A Black Hornet Micro-Drone (file photo)

The United Kingdom will provide Ukraine with underwater drones to help detect and clear Russian mines in off-shore waters.

Britain will send six autonomous mine-hunting vehicles to Ukraine as part of the new $64-million aid package that was announced by the caretaker Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his third visit to Ukraine since the war began on February 24.

The Ukrainian armed forces are also set to get their hands on 850 ‘Black Hornet’ micro-drones from the UK and Norway as part of the new package.

Each Black Hornet measures around 10 by 2.5 centimeters and weighs a mere 16 grams, making it easy for the soldiers to carry around. The UAV has a range of roughly two kilometers and a maximum speed of about 17.7 kilometers per hour, with a ceiling exceeding 10,000 feet above sea level. The drone can loiter for around 20 to 25 minutes with a full charge. The battery is rechargeable and can be charged with a wall outlet, a car charger, etc. The rotors are said to be very silent, enabling the Black Hornets to fly over enemy positions without being detected.

Dozens of Ukrainian personnel will be trained to use the mine-hunting vehicles by the Royal Navy and US partners over the coming months.

The lightweight autonomous vehicle is designed for use in shallow coastal environments, operating effectively at depths of up to 100 meters to detect, locate and identify mines using an array of sensors so the Ukrainian Navy can destroy them.

Ukraine has been involved in a war with Russia since President Vladimir Putin declared the campaign in late February. The Russian president said the campaign was to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.

Ever since, the United States and its Western allies have been providing Kiev with military aid, including at least 16 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS). HIMARS is a long-range, mobile rocket system capable of hitting targets with precision. Its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, says the systems have a "recognized and proven range" of up to 300 kilometers.

Russia has repeatedly warned that the US-made weapons were being used to strike residential areas of the Russian-held Donbass and to intentionally set fire to wheat fields and grain storage silos.

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