The United States is sending more Switchblade unmanned aerial vehicles to Ukraine. The popular drones have proven essential to Ukraine’s fight against Russian invaders. Reports suggest that the U.S. Army contacted the California-based weapons manufacturer AeroVironment to supply more Switchblade drones to Ukraine.
The tube-launched and portable drones are designed to destroy themselves on impact in precision strikes. They already helped Ukrainian forces fend off Russian troops in central Ukraine, and now they are seeing action in the Donbas.
Implications of the Contract
The new $17.9 million contract will cover the hardware production of new Switchblade drones for Ukraine. Technically, the agreement is a modification of a previously agreed contract. It is estimated to be completed by May 4 of next year.
The completion date might hint at a belief in Washington that the conflict between Ukraine and Russia will continue for another year. But the continuing supply of Switchblades may also reflect the United States’ belief that Ukraine must be able to defend itself, even after the war comes to an end.
What Is the Switchblade?
The U.S. military has long used the Switchblade, and this loitering munition drone is now among the most commonly used unmanned aerial vehicles in the Russia-Ukraine war.
Stored in a tube and easy to transport, the smaller Switchblade 300 model can be launched by a single soldier holding the tube over their shoulder. As the drone is launched, the wings automatically unfold, and the vehicle flies. While the drone is in the air, a camera fitted to its nose allows an operator on the ground to fly the drone and survey from the air.
Commonly called the Kamikaze drone – a reference to the Japanese aircraft used in World War II that was filled with explosives and flown directly into targets – these drones are single-use. They are designed to offer troops greater precision when targeting enemies.
Ukraine Releases Video Footage of Drone Attack
On May 6, Ukraine released video footage of a Switchblade attacking a Russian machine gun position, successfully taking out the target and proving the effectiveness of these new drones.
The footage was released by the 53rd Mechanized Brigade.
So far, thousands of drones have been donated to Ukraine, including both the smaller Switchblade 300 model, and the larger 600 variant.
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.