The Switchblade UAV is known as the “suicide killer” because it is only used once but can cause significant damage to infantry or armoured vehicles.
On March 30, US officials confirmed that the US had included 100 Switchblade killer drones in a massive arms aid package to Ukraine approved by President Joe Biden earlier this month.
During a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Celeste Wallander stated that Ukraine has offered to provide Switchblade drones for use. in response to Russian attacks
“In a recent aid package signed by the president, we committed to delivering 100 of these planes.” “We listened to Ukraine’s request and took it seriously,” Ms. Celeste Wallander said.
The deployment of the Switchblade to the Ukraine war may be the most significant milestone in the weapon’s combat history, as it is unclear how frequently the US military has used the Switchblade on the battlefield. AeroVironment, the company that manufactures the weapon in the United States, declined to comment on the weapon deliveries.
The Switchblade UAV UAV’s damage level
The switchblade is a formidable weapon, dubbed the “suicide killer” because it is only used once but can inflict significant damage on infantry or destroy tanks or artillery shells. This is a small, light drone with a camera that is controlled on the battlefield by a tablet.
They are programmed to automatically attack targets kilometres away and to fly around the target until the right moment to strike arrives. There are two versions of this weapon: Switchblade 300 and Switchblade 600. It is unclear what type of assistance Ukraine receives from the United States. Version 300 is intended for use against enemy soldiers, whereas Version 600 is intended for use against tanks and armoured vehicles. Both use sensors and GPS technology to find targets.
“They are designed for the United States Special Operations Command and are weapons systems that can be deployed immediately on the battlefield,” said Mick Mulroy, a former deputy assistant secretary of defence.
Unlike the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) drones commonly used by the US military, the Switchblade 300 is nearly 61 cm long and weighs 2.5 kg, making it small enough to fit in a backpack. Soldiers. It is combined with Northrop Grumman’s advanced explosive ammunition, which is capable of destroying a group of soldiers at close range but not powerful enough to cause significant damage to tanks. The Switchblade 300 has a 10km range and can stay aloft for about 15 minutes.
The US Special Forces used the Switchblade UAV for the first time in Afghanistan. However, it was previously used by the Army and Marine Corps to disrupt ambushes or to attack lightly armoured vehicles.
AeroVironment, Inc. Because of its small size and low heat generation due to its use of an electric motor, the Switchblade UAV is nearly undetectable. In other words, enemy soldiers will be unaware that they are being watched until the Switchblade attacks. The explosive mass is launched in a cone shape, reducing the possibility of collateral damage while ensuring the destruction of the intended target. The Switchblade 600 is a more advanced variant of this weapon It can fly farther, have a longer range, and carry a larger payload against armoured vehicles. According to the manufacturer, the Switchblade 600 has an armor-piercing warhead weighing 3 kg and a range of up to 80 km. If no attack targets are found, the Switchblade 600 UAV will patrol the airspace in standby mode for up to 40 minutes.
Is it possible for Ukrainian soldiers to use this vehicle?
According to the developer, even untrained soldiers can use this weapon because the interface on the tablet is simple to read and understand for anyone who has used a smartphone.
The Switchblade, like many other drones, is navigated using waypoints, in which the operator plots a route on a map and the UAV, once launched, moves along this route in its own way. In contrast to radio-controlled devices, users simply sketch out what they want to see while the drone flies autonomously.
It is unclear whether AeroVironment will send a training team to Kiev or whether the use of this UAV was instructed to Ukrainian soldiers prior to the conflict.
Since Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine at the end of February 2022, the US and its European allies have provided massive weapons support to Kiev. It is unclear whether the number of weapons provided by the West is sufficient to assist Ukraine in turning the situation around on the ground. However, Russia has repeatedly warned that this is a ploy to inflame tensions, potentially leading to a direct conflict between Russia and NATO.
In early March, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned the West not to keep “pumping weapons” into Ukraine, saying that such convoys would be a legitimate target for Russian military attacks.