Scan Eagle Drone Used by Navy SEALs in Captain Phillips Rescue Headed to Ukraine

August 19, 2022Tom Wyatt
Scan Eagle reconnaissance drones provided video to a Navy SEAL assault team during the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips in 2009. Fifteen of the drones will be sent to Ukraine as part of a $775 million aid package. Army photo by Spc. Derek Mustard

Scan Eagle reconnaissance drones provided video to a Navy SEAL assault team during the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips in 2009. Fifteen of the drones will be sent to Ukraine as part of a $775 million aid package. Army photo by Spc. Derek Mustard

The same reconnaissance drone that Navy SEALs used in the 2009 mid-ocean rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips from the Maersk Alabama will soon be in the hands of Ukrainian forces combating Russian invaders.

Pentagon officials said on Friday, Aug. 19, that 15 Scan Eagle surveillance drones would be part of a new $775 million weapons and military aid package headed to Ukraine. The Scan Eagle is a small, unarmed reconnaissance drone capable of long endurance at low altitude. The Boeing-built drone launches and returns to its users almost like an oversize kids' toy but has been used in combat by American special operations forces in combat for close to two decades. The drone takes to the air by a catapult and is recovered upon its return by flying it into an oversize netting known as the skyhook.

In 2009, the Scan Eagle circled over a Maersk Alabama lifeboat after it was seized by pirates, sending back video to an assault team of SEALs from the Navy's DEVGRU unit on a nearby US Navy ship as they planned a rescue of Phillips, the Alabama's captain.

scan eagle drone

In a still frame from video released by the US Navy taken by the Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle, a 28-foot lifeboat from the US-flagged container ship Maersk Alabama is seen Thursday, April 9, 2009, in the Indian Ocean. US Navy photo.

The drone can observe with a wide range of sensors, including optical cameras and other intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, or ISR, capabilities. The drone can also act as a communications relay on top.

Pentagon officials said the Scan Eagle will be part of a $775 million package in weapons and military aid and comes just two weeks after the Pentagon announced a $1 billion package Aug. 8, adding to the approximately $10 billion in aid the US has sent to Ukraine since the Biden administration took office.

Along with the Scan Eagles, the package will include additional HIMARS (High Mobility Aerial Rocket System) ammunition, which has proved an effective tool against the Russian forces. “We have been seeing Ukraine employing HIMARS masterfully on the battlefield. This long range fire capability has really changed the dynamic on the battlefield, so we want to make sure that Ukraine has a steady stream of ammunition to meet its needs,” a senior US defense official said. “You're seeing the Russians still paying a high price with Ukrainian attacks, especially [with Ukrainians] using that HIMARS system.”

scan eagle drone

A Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle drone system is launched at Al Asad, Iraq, March 4, 2020. US Army photo by Spc. Derek Mustard.

In addition to the drones and HIMARS ammunition, the package includes:

  • 16 105mm howitzers and 36,000 of 105mm artillery rounds;
  • 40 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, or MRAPS, with mine rollers;
  • Additional high-speed anti-radiation missiles, which target radar systems;
  • 50 armored Humvees;
  • 1,500 TOW anti-armor missiles;
  • 1,000 Javelin anti-armor systems;
  • 2,000 anti-armor rounds;
  • Mine-clearing equipment and systems;
  • Demolition munitions;
  • Communications systems;
  • Night vision and thermal optics and laser rangefinders.
scan eagle drone

A Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle is launched from the flight deck of the USS Ponce in the Arabian Gulf. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Bryce Bruns.

Overall, a defense official said, the war has slowed to a crawl.

“Right now, I would say that you are seeing a complete and total lack of progress by the Russians on the battlefield,” the official told reporters. “So in that sense, we are at a different phase than we were even a couple of months ago."

READ NEXT: Brother of Abbey Gate Marine Dies Next to Memorial

Tom Wyatt
Tom Wyatt

Tom Wyatt was a SkillBridge intern for Coffee or Die. He is an active-duty Naval Special Warfare boat operator and a proud father living in San Diego, California. Tom is a budding reporter, looking to pursue journalism and fiction writing upon exiting the Navy.

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