Switchblade 300 from AeroVironment website
Biden announced that the US would be sending Switchblade drones to Ukraine. These are called kamikaze drones because their purpose is to crash into their target, to destroy the drone and the target. The are called “loitering munitions” or missiles instead of drones because they can not be re-used. So, please excuse me for calling them drones, but it seems everyone is calling them drones.
Per NBC new link: ” Dubbed kamikaze, suicide or killer drones, these unmanned aircraft don’t fire missiles — they are the missiles. But unlike typical missiles, they can circle above a target, wait for the ideal moment and strike with incredible precision.”
They are really small, lightweight and inexpensive. The Switchback 300 is 2 feet long, weighs only 5 1/2 pounds and can travel 7 miles to hit a target. They are called “Switchblade” because their bladelike wings spring out on launch. The cost according to Wikipedia is around $6,000. This is dirt cheap, compared to Hellfire missiles at $150,000 each.
The Switchback 300 is designed to kill individuals. The larger Switchback 600 can destroy a tank or armored vehicle and weighs about 50 pounds. Its maximum range is 25 miles.
The drones are equipped with daylight and IR cameras to help navigate the Switchback to its target. The images are displayed on a laptop, so they can be manually piloted or the mission can be aborted, and the drone can be exploded in the air. More of the technical details can be found in the links below.
If you are thinking these kamikaze drones might be great for rebel or terrorist groups on a tight budget, you are right. One example from NBC News link: “Iranian-backed Houthi rebels used them [kamikaze drones] to blow up Saudi oil facilities in 2019.” They give several other examples.
Basically, I’m glad they are going to Ukraine, to hold out against the Russian invasion.
NBC News: Kamikaze drones
Wikipedia, AeroVironment Switchblades
What to know about the 100 US ‘Switchblade’ drones heading to Ukraine
Unlike larger drones, it’s not meant to return after its mission.
2 thoughts on “Switchblade drones”
It appears that only 100 Switchblade 300 will be sent. at this point US Dept of Defense has a 30 million dollar contract for the more powerful Switchblade 600, with delivery scheduled for Jan 2023 (too late!). I imagine that the 300’s will be more useful in attacking soft targets in areas already occupied by Russian troops and Russian recon drones.. Russia is likely to also intensify the war with their own unarmed drones. I am hopeful the new commitment from the US to supply weapons can stall the Russian advance, and make the war very costly for them.
It’s pretty easy to get current information on the Switchblade drones. I thought this one on Youtube is particularly good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6CKMFETpMo
It is widely reported that 100 Switchblades are being sent to Ukraine, but I don’t know if they are 300’s or 600’s.