China copied US kamikaze Switchblade and began mass production

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China has recently been in the spotlight for testing its XS101 loitering munition, a ‘kamikaze drone’. It’s hard not to notice how closely this weapon system mirrors the US-manufactured Switchblade 300- a clear sign of China’s forward leaps in the realm of unmanned aerial systems technology. 

Just a glance at the XS101 reveals an uncanny similarity with the American Switchblade 300. The design and even the bazooka-style launcher of this new drone, developed by AOMEI technology, bear a striking resemblance to its American equivalent. Clearly, China and the U.S. share more than a few parallels when it comes to their drone launch mechanisms. 

When China’s latest toy, the XS101, was let loose from a lofty 4,600 meters, it hit its target with remarkable precision. Adding to its capabilities, a nose-mounted camera allows operators to receive real-time visual feedback. So, whether it’s about hitting a moving target or navigating the drone to a specific destination, the operator can comfortably do it all. 

Video screenshot

What sets the XS101 apart is its autonomous navigation prowess. It can follow a set trajectory towards a target or location without incessant human direction. But don’t worry, operators aren’t expected to sit back and watch— they can step in, adjust courses, or call off missions if unforeseen events, like civilians in the target area, crop up. 

The uncanny resemblance of the XS101 to the US-born Switchblade 300 only highlights how far China has come in the race for advanced drone technology.

Russia too

It’s not just China; Russia has also been found replicating the American kamikaze drone. Images surfaced online depict an ammunition sticking out of the American Switchblade 300, a proprietary drone from AeroVironment. As per International Defense Analysis, they revealed that both photographic and video evidence of these Russian loitering munitions have been shared by Russia’s own RIA Novosti on their Twitter account. 

Russia’s iteration of the loitering munition is named the BAS-80, with a distinct black coloration. The photograph reveals a noticeably rectangular body for the BAS-80, with a pair of surveillance cameras positioned at the forefront. 

The fin can be identified at the trailing end of the munition. There are two wings, intersecting at a right-angle with the body of the kamikaze drone. One wing is positioned at the upper side of the drone’s body, the other is fastened toward the bottom. The two wings maintain a noticeable distance from each other.

Switchblade 300

Switchblade 300 is a loitering munition, which is a type of unmanned aerial vehicle [UAV] that can loiter or hover over a target area for a certain period before engaging the target. It is designed to be a portable and lightweight weapon system that can be launched from a variety of platforms, including ground vehicles, helicopters, and fixed-wing aircraft.

In terms of technical characteristics, the Switchblade 300 has a wingspan of approximately 36 inches and a length of about 24 inches. It weighs around 5.5 pounds, making it highly maneuverable and easy to transport. The munition is equipped with a high-resolution electro-optical and infrared [EO/IR] camera, which provides real-time video feed to the operator, allowing for precise target identification and engagement.

Photo credit: FlightGlobal

The operational range of the Switchblade 300 is up to 10 kilometers [6.2 miles], providing operators with the capability to engage targets at a considerable distance. Its endurance is approximately 15 minutes, allowing for extended loitering time in the target area. The munition can reach speeds of up to 100 miles per hour, enabling rapid response and quick target engagement.

One of the key features of the Switchblade 300 is its precision strike capability. It is equipped with a small explosive warhead that can be remotely detonated by the operator, ensuring minimal collateral damage and reducing the risk to friendly forces. The munition also has a high level of maneuverability, allowing it to navigate complex environments and engage targets in urban or densely populated areas.

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