10 long-awaited US-made loitering munitions on their way to Ukraine
WASHINGTON — Ukraine expects to receive 10 Switchblade 600 kamikaze drones in the coming weeks. Charlie Dean, Vice President of Sales and Business Development for AeroVironment announced the news.
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At the moment, the armed forces of Ukraine use a smaller version of the drone – the Switchblade 300. According to Dean, since the beginning of the war, Kyiv has received nearly 400 units of the Switchblade 300. Weeks ago, the US government awarded an order to AeroVironment for the production of 10 Switchblade 600 namely for Ukraine. The value of the order is 2.2 million USD.
“Soft” Russian targets have been destroyed by the Ukrainians with the Switchblade 300 version. These are mostly fuel trucks, transport vehicles, machine gun emplacements, trench positions, and dismounted infantry. The Switchblade 600 is a “tank killer,” comments Dean.
The war in Ukraine is the reason for AeroVironment to increase the production of drones. Especially the Switchblade 600, says Deena. Changes are currently being made in terms of supplies, building supply lines, and increasing shift work.
The American company produces 2,000 Switchblade 600 units a year. Dean hopes to triple production in just a few months. It is not only Ukraine that makes orders. France, for example, was one of the first countries that, seeing the capabilities of drones on the battlefield, made a plan for a quick purchase. Paris explains that this is a “gap” in the combat capability of the French army and must be filled.
The war in Ukraine is a personal mission
The war in Ukraine is a personal mission for AeroVironment and especially for the company’s CEO, Wahid Nawabi. Years ago, during the Russo-Afghan War, Nawabi fled Afghanistan with his family after the Soviet Union invaded the Asian country.
Dean also shared that even before the war in Ukraine, when intelligence was warning that it was about to happen, AeroVironment had put together a team in charge of Ukraine. This team has been considering ways of supplying, producing, and helping Ukraine.
Switchblade 300 and Switchblade 600
Switchblades is developed in two versions – Switchblade 300 and Switchblade 600. Both versions are in service only in the United States Army and United States Marine Corps. Interestingly, the US government has banned the manufacturer – AeroVironment to demonstrate the capabilities of the second option – Switchblade 600.
In reality, the Switchblade 300 and Switchblade 600 are unmanned aerial vehicles such as robotic intelligent bombs, ie. kamikaze. Like other drones, the Switchblade 300 and Switchblade 600 are equipped with electro-optical surveillance, detection, and search systems.
According to the manufacturer, the second version of the Switchblade 600 can travel 80 km in 40 minutes. Both versions are programmable for auto-hitting targets and have the ability after takeoff the operator to change their trajectory and direct them to another target.
The advantage of this type of kamikaze drone is that they are relatively much cheaper than standard air-to-ground or air-to-air missiles. According to unofficial data, the Switchblade 300 costs just $6,000, while one Hellfire air-to-surface missile costs approximately $150,000.
Analysts compare the currently used Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones to the American Switchblade kamikaze drones, saying that the Switchblade “flies much faster than the Bayraktar TB2”. The Switchblade 300 and Switchblade 600 are tuned and fired in minutes from the launch tube.
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