What Are “Switchblade Drones” Donated by the U.S. to Ukraine? – On Friday, the United States Department of State announced $300 million in “security assistance” for Ukraine to help soldiers to hold back Russian forces. The new package includes a range of military hardware, from communications systems, armored vehicles, laser-guided rocket systems, and “Switchblade” drones.
In a statement last week, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that the decision “underscores the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in support of its heroic efforts to repel Russia’s war of choice.”
While short of the aircraft requested by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the aid package contains technologically advanced drones that may help Ukrainian forces hold back Russian troops who are repositioning to the East of the country.
What is the Switchblade Drone?
Also known as “Kamikaze” drones, these unmanned aerial devices are significantly smaller than normal drones used by the U.S. military for reconnaissance purposes. Manufactured by AeroVironment, the drone comes in two different models – one of which are designed to be small enough to fit inside of a backpack and be deployed quickly.
Speaking to Coffee or Die Magazine, a drone operator who spent years working with a U.S. Army special missions unit, described the drones as a “far more accurate” alternative to Javelin missiles.
“Both are able to strike a building, but the Switchblade can strike a window in that building, effectively striking with precision beyond anything else I know of,” the operator said. “It allows a small team to take out an important position or vehicle from a reasonably safe distance.”
Both models of the Switchblade can be launched with only a handful of minutes of preparation time. The devices are guided by the user with a controller and a live video feed, which allows the user to deliver the ammunition with precision. Rather than shooting ammunition, however, the Switchblade itself becomes the weapon.
The drone is described by the U.S. military as a “loitering munition” as it is destroyed when deployed and cannot be reused or recovered.
The Switchblade 400 is a smaller drone designed to be transported in a backpack. It can fly for 15 minutes and has a range of around six miles. The drone can cruise at a speed of 63 miles per hour and has a top speed of 100 miles per hour.
This smaller device is designed to strike soldiers with precision.
The larger Switchblade 600 drone is almost ten times as heavy as the 300 model, at 50lbs. The device can fly for over 40 minutes and has a range of up to 25 miles.
With a cruising speed of 70mph and a top speed of 115mph, the larger device is marginally quicker. It delivers a more damaging payload and is designed for precision-targeting soldiers, tanks, and military equipment.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.