Lightweight, easy-to-carry "kamikaze drones" will be part of the $800 million in military aid to Ukraine announced by U.S. President Joe Biden on March 16, according to The New York Times. Citing unnamed U.S. officials, the paper said the armed Switchblade drones were designed to be flown directly into their targets and then explode.

Drones small enough for a backpack

The drones were small enough and light enough to be carried in a backpack, the paper said. Larger drones would be easy targets for the Russians, The New York Times added. The drones could have "an immediate impact on the battlefield," Michael Mulroy, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense, told the paper.

Ukraine would receive 100 Switchblade drones, said The Washington Post, in a report based on unnamed sources. The paper said it was unclear which version of the Switchblade Ukraine would receive: the 5-pound Switchblade 300 or the 50-pound Switchblade 600. The Switchblade 300 could stay in the air for 15 minutes while the Switchblade 600 could fly for 40 minutes, the paper said. Both models of the Switchblade, manufactured by AeroVironment, were cheaper than most American-made drones, the paper said.

NBC News described the Switchblades as "robotic smart bombs." One Switchblade 300 was estimated to cost as little as $6,000, the broadcaster said.

Ukrainians suffer 'appalling devastation and horror'

Biden’s announcement of increased military aid to Ukraine came hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had addressed the U.S. Congress by video link. Zelensky’s address and Biden’s announcement have been posted on YouTube. The text of Biden’s announcement is on the White House website.

Russia's War in Ukraine had inflicted "appalling devastation and horror" on civilians there, Biden said. He said the $800 million in additional aid to Ukraine would include the following:

  • 20 million rounds of ammunition, including drones as well as artillery and mortar rounds.
  • 7,000 small arms
  • 800 anti-aircraft systems
  • 9,000 anti-armor systems

Biden said the U.S.

and its allies would continue to put economic pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin. "That’s our goal: make Putin pay the price, weaken his position while strengthening the hand of the Ukrainians on the battlefield and at the negotiating table," Biden said.

'Biden is now a wartime president'

In a commentary on Fox Business, Stuart Varney noted that Biden's desire to avoid an escalation of the conflict with Russia had led to the United States turning down Zelensky's request for a no-fly zone over Ukraine. It was unclear to what extent Biden would support Ukraine, Varney said. "Like it or not, Joe Biden is now a wartime president," he concluded.

In his March 16 announcement, Biden recalled that the United States had given Ukraine $650 million in aid in 2021 and another $350 million immediately after the start of the invasion.

The previous Saturday, another $200 million had been given, he said. American aid had "clearly helped Ukraine inflict dramatic losses on Russian forces," Biden said.

He also noted that the United States had recently "provided $300 million in humanitarian assistance to the people in Ukraine and in neighboring countries."