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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Meet the Switchblade Drone That Is Lighting Up the Skies in Ukraine

Switchblade drone. Image Credit: Industry handout.
Switchblade drone. Image Credit: Industry handout.

Take it out of your rucksack. Quickly set up the launcher and watch it streak into the sky. It will deliver a kamikaze-like blow to wherever it’s targeted. Modern warfare has descended upon Ukraine with deadly suicide drones such as the Switchblade. The unmanned weapon caused a stir when it was announced that it was a part of various arms shipments from the United States. Let’s take a look at what it is and how the Switchblade works:

What Is the Switchblade?

The Americans sent the Ukrainians the first batch of 100-Switchblade loitering munitions and then put the word out that it was donating another 600 weapons as part of a $300 million arms package on April 17.

Referred to as the “flying shotgun,” the tactical drone is mostly for anti-personnel usage, but it can also harass tanks and armored vehicles because the munitions can be outfitted with a heavier anti-armor warhead that is launched quickly and in numbers.

Train the Trainer

The United States is taking a “train the trainer” approach to the Switchblade.

Ukrainian soldiers are coming over from Kyiv to receive instruction on the drone system. These training sessions are supposed to take only a few days. Then they will be able to spread the knowledge to other soldiers. The Ukrainians hope the system can be transported to the critical Donbas region which is the next phase of the war.

There Are Two Models with Different Specs

The more advanced Switchblade 600 (which the Americans have provided in fewer numbers) is an improvement over the base model as it has a larger anti-tank load. The six hundred models still weigh only 50-pounds. It can fly at over 100-miles per hour for 24-miles and stays in the air for 40-minutes. It takes only ten minutes to set up for launch.

The 300 version is made more for targeting enemy soldiers as it is only 1.6-feet long. It can reach speeds of up to 100-miles per hour. The 300 model has a lower range of only 6-miles and can loiter for 15-minutes. The 300 takes two minutes to fire.

Exact Targeting Capability

The targeting mechanism uses GPS waypoint navigation and can be “launch and forget.” Or it is flown remotely by soldiers. It is operated by a rechargeable battery.

The Switchblade is also designed to use targeting information from other drones. It is a one-shot one-kill and soldiers can re-call it and cancel a mission if they see the target is not hittable.

Who Makes the Drone?

The Switchblade is made by AeroVironment located in Arlington, Virginia. Steve Gitlin, AeroVironment’s Chief Marketing Officer, told The War Zone the following. “[Unlike] radio-controlled devices, the operator is not flying the aircraft, the operator’s simply indicating what he wants to look at, what he wants the camera to be pointing at, and the onboard computer flies the aircraft to that point and maintains on target,” he said. “We have a similar capability in our tactical unmanned aircraft systems. You could lock in on a target and the aircraft will basically maintain position on that target, autonomous.”

Switchblade Russia Ukraine

Switchblade drone. Image Credit: Industry handout.

Ukraine Should Try to Get More

The United States is likely to order more of these drones for use in Ukraine. They are an asymmetrical force multiplier that is easy to use and are carried by just one soldier. The base model loitering munition has the advantage of attacking enemy combatants, machine gun emplacements, and personnel hiding in trenches. The larger model is effective against tanks. The operator simply dials in the grid coordinates and lets it fly or sights it in through the video monitor.

The Russians are learning that the Switchblade is a weapons system that can make them pay a steep price for invading.

Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.



  1. MKE

    April 20, 2022 at 9:42 pm

    Overpriced waste of money! It’s basically a model plane with equivalent 40 mm grenade. To be successful it has to pull the 100 MPH drive at the target. 19.5 inches long

  2. MKE

    April 20, 2022 at 9:52 pm

    Overpriced waste of money! It’s basically a model plane with equivalent 40 mm grenade. To be successful it has to pull the 100 MPH dive at the target. 19.5 inches long


  3. MKE

    April 20, 2022 at 9:56 pm


  4. Alex

    April 20, 2022 at 11:25 pm

    The people’s militia of Donbass has already shown a video where they study these toys.

  5. CK

    April 21, 2022 at 12:02 am

    Yes, they study it very closely. They are particularly adept at studying the moment it explodes, and its impact on body parts and poor conscript morale. Keep up the good work!

  6. Alex

    April 21, 2022 at 12:26 am

    I agree. When weapons are sent to Bandera Nazis, and the same weapons are used against them – this is great 🙂

  7. Melissa

    April 21, 2022 at 5:05 am

    An idea:

    A button that says “possible troll,” if a certain amount of people flag Alex as a “possible troll,” then the author of the article (Mr. Eastwood)looks at all of Alex’s comments in a certain time frame, from a certain fake IP adress, on his article, and removes his comments.

    I realize that the troll can do this in reverse, but a good thing would be to ultimately watch the troll flagged up and removed. He’s not going to flag himself, or the bot won’t flag itself as a troll. It or he will flag, say CK as a troll, but the author or editor will see that his comments are not trolling, so it will be obvious.

    The end result would be to have a open comments section, but not the distraction of wondering what comments are trolling, or not. He speaks in gray statements, and sarcasms, so it distracts the lay reader, and even confuses some people.

    Some people think simply, and like to keep it that way, and trolls circumvent this by speaking sarcastically, etc.

    We all know he/she/it is a troll, but we have to waste thought on the stements, and even be misguided. It ruins the non- political feel of the article, and website. These are intelligent, informed articles, and having poo underneath it detracts from the learning experience. At least for a lot of people I know. I do enjoy the informed, or inquisitive, or genuine comments.

    “Possible Troll” button please, for us.

    • Mathew Jackson

      April 23, 2022 at 10:10 am

      I like it also that criminalises have no clue about the immense horror they all face. These are a distraction. Merely a toy with which to amuse ones comrades with little videos of instantaneous body dismemberment. Does the Don, this Putin go abroad in arrogance or complete fantasy. It simply is unthinkable his days shall see any vast victories. He is living only because the world likes to try out their evil inventions on evil subgroups… the first of a new species, for Criminalise Z Gangsters are inhuman and mentally deficient. Calling the warriors of the Ukraine, all Ukrainians Nazism yet go abroad raping little girls, yes… and burning their swatchstika into thirties. Even this poor child, well appears as a child like creature, he is making nazi salutes! So, he has his life career as a successful driver, destroyed. Sad, every species is entitled to life. Even the sadists and criminalists from Don Putins twisted fuck up of a war! What a stupid idea! And to lose this ship. Its little matter as it was junk and should be a fishes home long ago! Finally it is. There is more such things to come…. made for the inhuman grubs, special designer bon-bons,the likes of which y’all have never seen.

  8. CK

    April 21, 2022 at 8:51 am

    @Melissa – agreed. I think my 1st comment on this website on finding it was of a very similar vein. At first, I was euphoric – for the most part, the articles are pretty great, and they have pretty good coverage.

    Then I came to the comments section, only to see it overran by very inept, but still distracting trolls. The irony is that some posts even seem to have to be “moderated” but still get allowed anyway.

    I’d love nothing more than to discuss the actual content of the articles, and in a few where the discussion hasn’t been dragged down by fake news and propaganda, this has been possible.

    Should be a very good way to raise the profile of the site and make it feel like a place you can actually have a discussion.

  9. Alex

    April 21, 2022 at 11:30 pm

    I was right: three warehouses with weapons from NATO countries were destroyed. This party was or not, but the people’s militia of Donbass was even upset: they wanted to look at these toys.

  10. CK

    April 22, 2022 at 4:55 am

    Yes yes Alex,and Russian troops are in Kyiv as we speak. NATO has surrendered and Sveta loves you. There there.

  11. Alex

    April 24, 2022 at 4:45 am

    A few hours ago, Russian hypersonic weapons destroyed warehouses near Odessa with new NATO weapons. I wonder if these toys were there?

  12. Milebb

    April 24, 2022 at 5:54 am

    Yeah we are closer and closer to the nuclear war, yeeeeeees.

    It’s good for you Americans because you leave life of a lying to each other.

  13. CK

    April 24, 2022 at 5:56 am

    Given the “accuracy” of all your other weapons, probably just a mother and her 3 month old baby.

    Also, poor you man, they are making you work on Orthodox Easter? The night money Sveta brings not enough to keep you guys afloat anymore? Let me know if you need any donations. I’m sure I have a few cents lying around that will be worth a fortune in roubles!

    • RoganJ

      April 24, 2022 at 6:28 am

      Don’t pay attention to Russian trolls at all – the most painful situation for them is the one in which everyone ignores them.

      • CK

        April 24, 2022 at 5:23 pm

        Sadly very true.

  14. Milebb

    April 24, 2022 at 6:02 am

    And you pretend to rule the world, but the biggest problem is Russia, because you can’t rule the Russia, and that’s why you don’t like rusia.

    Why you produce in ukraina bio weapon? Probably for the peace in the world, America doesn’t care about people in Ukraine, that’s why they send weapons to ukraina, but when all Ukraine people die, then Russia will be guilty. But if you start nuclear war, still Russia will be guilty, it’s strange world where you can do whatever you want and blame the others.

  15. CK

    April 24, 2022 at 5:25 pm

    Don’t want to burst your bubble, but Russia hasn’t been the west’s problem for a good few decades. It’s been China. Your time in the spotlight has long since faded, and this recent pathetic attempt to reclaim it will just humiliate the motherland further.

    As for bioweapons.. yeah, a million better places to develop in the word, they choose a country next to a superpower, for no reason at all.

    Do you guys even have brain cells?

  16. Alex

    April 25, 2022 at 10:31 am

    Yes, Russia has big “problems”:
    There is the Donetsk People’s Republic. There is the Luhansk People’s Republic. Kherson applied to Russia for a referendum to establish the Kherson People’s Republic. God bless the Ukrainians of Donbass!

  17. CK

    April 25, 2022 at 11:05 am

    Yes Alex, and Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania also re-applied to join the Russian Federation. In this reality, Putin has conquered his hemorrhoids, and you and Sveta live happily ever after.

    It’s nice to sit back and daydream, isn’t it? ?

  18. Alex

    April 26, 2022 at 2:17 am

    Why is Russia with the people’s militia of Donbass taking new territories of Ukraine every day? Let’s figure it out:

    The West failed to turn much of the world against Russia after the military operation in Ukraine began, columnist Howard French wrote in an article for Foreign Policy magazine.
    According to him, many states did not support sanctions against Moscow, including such large countries as India and China.

    “In fact, when counting the population of these countries, it becomes clear that the states representing the majority of humanity have not taken a position in this conflict, seeing in it the familiar echoes of the former rivalry between East and West,” said French.
    According to the observer, the international political system that took shape at the beginning of the twentieth century from the very beginning gave the countries of the “third world” the status of second-class states. As an example, he cited the colonization of Africa by European countries.

    “It was the work of the enslaved millions of people who grew sugar and cotton in huge quantities, cleared the land and did all other unpaid work that made the American colonies profitable for Europe, and the so-called “Old World” new and rich,” the author emphasized.

    French urged not to ignore the heightened sense of justice among the former colonized peoples.

    “The whole world” with Ukraine 🙂

  19. CK

    April 26, 2022 at 7:17 am

    Oh, so now “slow” progress is to avoid casualties? Man, you must have been getting lessons, your jokes only get better and better!

  20. Alex

    April 29, 2022 at 9:30 am

    If someone wants to know the truth about the civil war in the Donbass, about all the atrocities of the Bandera clean-ups and why Russia was forced to intervene, then it is better to watch films by independent journalists. There are already many such journalists who fight for truth and freedom. For example, a documentary by the German journalist Wilhelm Domcke-Schulz.

    A documentary film about the war crimes of the Bandera Nazis during the period of Russia’s special military operation to denazify and demilitarize Ukraine is in production. It will be a real information bomb, where the war crimes of Bandera Nazis will be shown and proved.

    The documentary “Remember Odessa” tells how the Bandera Nazis burned Ukrainians alive and other heinous war crimes.

    The documentary “To Live and Die in Donbass” tries to fill this gaping information gap in the West. He looks into the tormented soul of the inhabitants of Donbass, who really want only one thing – to live self-determining according to their own rules and values. Not submitting to foreign forces and ideologies.

    In the east of Ukraine, in the Donbass, a war has been raging since the beginning of 2014. A civil war that claimed more than 15,000 lives over the years, including several hundred children. They had to die, because the national-fascist coup government in Kyiv, funded by the West, trained and militarily heavily armed, would not tolerate any resistance to their illegitimate rule, no matter the cost.

    Therefore, in April 2014, the putschists deployed the Ukrainian army, supported by dozens of right-wing extremist volunteer battalions, and have since bombed city centers, residential areas, schools, hospitals and infrastructure, killing civilians.

    This perennial crime has gone completely unnoticed by the Western public. Politicians and the media avoid this topic and reports about how the devil pours holy water. Because a public discussion about the crimes of the Ukrainian regime would reveal only one thing – with what mass murderers and terrorists the so-called “west of values” in Ukraine has a common language, if only to defend their goals and interests.

    Lend-lease is a commodity loan, and not cheap: for all the ammunition, equipment and food supplied by the United States, many future generations of Ukrainian citizens will pay. Zelensky is driving the country into a debt hole.

  21. CK

    April 29, 2022 at 2:14 pm

    Ah, I see your tactic. You add a little shitty first paragraph so it doesn’t detect your duplicate post. Is this what it has come to now, you just posting the same exact post 2, 3, 4, 5 times per article?

    Wow, did they run out of paper in Russia, Alex? You guys can’t print new material? Literally using the same lines, over and over again, and now in duplicate in every post!

    Are you so defeated you can’t even come up with anything new? How sad. Now the idiot is talking about lend-lease at the end of his post, because he literally just copy + pasted it from another thread, with zero relevance to this one.

    Here’s a reminder:

    If someone wanted to know the truth about anything in Ukraine Alex, the last person they would go to is you.

    Paragraphs and paragraphs of bollocks, dubious claims about “independent journalists”, random documentarians, conspiracy theorists, deluded claims that of course, have no backup, lie after lie after lie.

    Classical Kremlin troll approach. Just flood the internet, the comments, the media, with tosh, doesn’t matter what it is, just make sure you write some old nonsense. Make sure to say the claim is supported by some dude in Germany, France, the states. If it’s a “documentary” (usually from youtube) then the better.

    Anything that victimises Russia, always the victim, always the bullied, never the problem. It’s always the Nazis. It’s always some pseudo-historical point.

    Anyone that has had the misfortune to study your “tactics” sees the forest for the trees, the pattern of lies, disinformation, blanketing of random claims, deflection, obfuscation, and other words beyond your vocabulary.

    It’s hopeless Alex. Your lies are as short as your intellect. What a pathetic job, to sit in your government shed, spreading your pathetic, government lies.

    A pathetic job for a truly pathetic man. A better match could not be made in heaven.

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