REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designers at AeroVironment Inc. in Arlington, Va., are building additional manpackable killer drones that have become notable for their use in Ukraine against invading Russian military forces.
Officials of the U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., announced an $18 million order to AeroVironment on Friday to build the Switchblade loitering munition that launches from a small tube that can be carried in a warfighter's backpack.
The Switchblade attack drone system, which essentially functions as a smart mortar round, transmits live color and infrared video wirelessly after launch for display on a small ground-control unit. The operator confirms the target using the live video feed, commands the air vehicle to arm its payload and lock its trajectory onto the target.
The Switchblade UAV weapon reportedly has been successful in Ukraine against invading Russian light combat vehicles and other valuable targets of opportunity. Ukraine officially uses the Switchblade 300 attack drone.
The Switchblade order came on the same day as a separate Army order for Javelin anti-tank missiles, which have achieved fame in the Russia-Ukraine war as one of the most lethal weapons used against invading Russian armored combat vehicles.
Controllers can manipulate the Switchblade loitering munition from as far away as 6.2 miles, and the missile can operate for as long as 10 minutes. It can engage long-range targets and help to relieve warfighters who are pinned down by enemy fire.
The Switchblade 300 uses compressed air to shoot out of its launch tube, and has an electric engine for propulsion. The loitering munition uses a fly-by-radio frequency signal, and daylight and infrared cameras to lock on to stationary and moving targets.
The warhead has a forward-firing shotgun-blast effect that throws pellets forward of the missile. The missile weighs six pounds, and is for use against beyond-line-of-site targets. It can provide real-time GPS coordinates and video for information gathering, targeting, or target recognition.
The Switchblade warhead has an explosive charge equivalent to a 40-millimeter grenade that is able to destroy light armored vehicles, enemy infantry, and supplies.
The Switchblade killer drone operates with a common ground-control station; has a 6.2-mile range; flies at speeds of 55 to 85 knots, at altitudes below 500 feet; and can launch from the ground, from aircraft, from ground vehicles, and from surface vessels.
For more information contact AeroVironment online at www.avinc.com, the Army Contracting Command-Redstone at https://acc.army.mil/contractingcenters/acc-rsa, or the Army PEO MS at www.msl.army.mil.