Politico reports “U.S. sending Switchblade drones to Ukraine in $800 million package”:
The U.S. will send 100 Switchblade drones to Ukraine as part of the Biden administration’s new $800 million weapons package, Texas Rep. Mike McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told POLITICO.
The inclusion of the “tactical” drones, which crash into their targets, represents a new phase of weaponry being sent to Ukraine by the U.S., which so far has shipped mostly anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. An administration official confirmed McCaul’s account that the U.S. is sending the Switchblade.
The Switchblade is a small, light drone that can loiter in the air for up to 30 minutes before being directed to its target by an operator on the ground, dozens of miles away. The drone is launched from a tube, like a mortar shell. Its real-time GPS guidance allows a service member in the field to fly it until the moment it crashes and explodes into whatever the target might be.
In his 2004 novel The Religion War, Scott Adams forecast that integrating hobby-sized unmanned aircraft (“drones”), image and facial recognition software, and compact, powerful explosives would lead to the creation of “killer drones” which would empower non-state actors with very modest budgets in conflicts with legacy empires.
Perhaps it was fear of the term “killer drone” that motivated the U.S. Department of Defense and contractor AeroVironment to dub the AeroVironment Switchblade a “loitering munition” or “loitering missile” rather than a “killer drone”, which is precisely what it is. (N.b. I detest using the word “drone” for an armed unmanned flying vehicle. The whole thing about a drone bee is that it is unarmed—has no stinger. How is a model airplane carrying a golf ball sized chunk of C4 to its target in any way a “drone”? But that word is now, like so many, lost, and quibbling about it is as hopeless as insisting that “The media are plural!”)
Here is an AeroVironment weapons porn video about the Switchblade 300.
While this video shows it being launched from a ship, a man-portable launcher is available. Here is the AeroVironment Switchblade 300 home page.
This video shows “Sensor to Shooter” capability with the Puma reconnaissance drone and Switchblade 300 killer drone.
A larger version, Switchblade 600, provides anti-tank capability with a range of 40 km.
The marginal unit cost of Switchblade 300 is estimated to be around US$ 6000.