US is sending Ukraine VAMPIRE rocket launchers that can turn a regular pickup truck into a drone killer
- The latest US aid package to Ukraine includes a portable VAMPIRE rocket system.
- The VAMPIRE kit can be used on pickup trucks, turning them into mobile weapons platforms.
Ukrainian forces will soon be able to turn regular pickup trucks and other vehicles into mobile rocket launchers able to take out Russian drones thanks to a new item in the latest US weapons package for Ukraine.
The VAMPIRE kit from American weapons maker L3Harris is included in the $3 billion US aid package to Ukraine that the Biden administration announced Wednesday. The package, the largest to date, also includes artillery and air defense support, among other systems.
According to the manufacturer, the Vehicle-Agnostic Modular Palletized ISR Rocket Equipment (VAMPIRE) kit includes a "suitcase-type," laser-guided weapons system that can be easily loaded into the cargo bed of a truck and set up by a two-person crew. The weapon is effective for striking both ground and airborne targets.
In Ukraine, the system is likely to serve as a counter to unmanned aerial systems, Defense News reported Thursday, citing remarks made at a press briefing by Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy.
"The VAMPIRE system itself is a counter-UAS system," Kahl told reporters this week. "It is a kinetic system that uses small missiles essentially to shoot UAVs out of the sky."
The kit's use of what is known as an Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System will reduce the time Ukrainian forces spend locking on to potential targets, adding a highly mobile, rapidly deployable option to the front lines.
Paul Swiergosz, a spokesperson for L3Harris, told Insider the company expects in the "coming days" to receive a formal order from the US government specifying how many units will be shipped to Ukraine. The company expects to be able to deliever the systems within nine months.
"It is a significant capability," Stacie Pettyjohn, a senior fellow and director of the defense program at the Center for a New American Security, told Insider.
Until now, the US has been providing Stinger missiles that can be fired by a single person on the ground, but that supply has been running short.
The VAMPIRE system is a kind of upgrade. Its four-barrel rocket launcher allows Ukrainian forces to strike multiple targets without reloading, and the ability to mount the weapon on a vehicle gives operators the ability to cover a larger area faster than troops on the ground with shoulder-launched missiles.
Russia has made extensive use of drones since invading its neighbor in February, using them for surveillance missions that enable later artillery attacks on Ukrainian forces. Ukraine previously alleged that recovered Russian UAVs, including the Orlan-10 surveillance drone, have included technology from Western countries, despite global sanctions.
"Having the type of systems that are very modular and able to be installed on all types of vehicles — so very mobile — and then used to shoot down these drones should improve the survivability of Ukrainian forces a lot," Pettyjohn said.
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