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This is How the Switchblade Drone Works

Switchblade drone that is used by Ukraine's forces against Russia. Image Credit: Industry handout.

This is How the Switchblade Drone Works – Built by AeroVironment, the Switchblade loitering munition drone has been in use by the United States military for several years and has become one of the most widely-used unmanned aerial vehicles in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The United States has sent thousands of units to Ukraine so far, pledging an additional 600 in a military aid package agreed in mid-April. 

But what are these drones, and how do they work?

Small and Portable Munitions

The Switchblade drone system is designed to be portable. It is an all-in-one system that includes a winged unmanned aerial vehicle inside of a tube that can be carried easily. The Switchblade 300 system can be carried inside of a rucksack, but the Switchblade 600 model is larger. 

At the bottom of the tube is a chamber filled with gas that is used to propel the Switchblade drone out of the tube. As it is fired into the air, the wings automatically fold out like a switchblade – which is where the drone gets its name. As the drone leaves the tube, the wings immediately unfold and it begins to fly. 

Once in the air, the drone can be operated from a distance thanks to the camera fitted inside of its nose. The operator can see where the drone is flying and scan the ground from the air. 

Why is it Called the “Kamikaze” Drone?

The Switchblade drone has seen a lot of media coverage, owing to the fact that such a large number of these missile systems have been gifted to Ukraine by the United States. 

The term “Kamikaze” refers to a kind of Japanese aircraft used in World War Two that was filled with explosives and deliberately flown directly into targets to deliver a weapons payload. By crashing into targets, these aircraft could only be used once, but allowed for a more accurate strike on various kinds of targets.

That’s just how the Switchblade drone works, which is why it is also commonly referred to as a “suicide” drone. 

Switchblade Ukraine

Switchblade drone. Image Credit: Industry handout.

Switchblades are also exceptionally quiet, meaning the enemy can’t easily see them. As soon as it’s in the air, it becomes a dot in the sky, hard to see and hard to stop as it begins its descent. 

They’re Not Invincible

While the Ukrainian military relies heavily on these drones on the battlefield, they are not invincible. If spotted, the drone can be jammed by the enemy. 

Small drones are generally vulnerable to being jammed. That means the 2.4GHz or 5.8GHz frequencies that small drones typically use to communicate with ground control can be blocked, making it impossible for the operator to control the drone. This is already happening on the battlefield. 

Switchblade drones can also be shot down if they are spotted soon enough.

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.

Written By

Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive's Breaking News Editor. He 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.



  1. Alex

    May 2, 2022 at 3:14 pm

    The whole world saw how drones work in Ukraine: half are destroyed in hangars, half are destroyed in the air.

  2. Michael Byrd killed a right wing terrorist slut

    May 2, 2022 at 5:18 pm

    Russian retard needs to look up the term Kamikaze. No wonder you Russian fatboys are going to be replaced by robots. Too obese to shoot straight, unlike the American city boys & LGBT NCOs.

    At least Russians and MAGAts have something in common, their both too fat to pass the PT test.

  3. CK

    May 2, 2022 at 6:45 pm

    You should see the other crap he posts here. This, for his standards, is relatively benign.

    Still, something must be afoot. I keep hearing of all these depots that keep exploding near the Russian border, and only THEN do drone carcasses appear. So what, you guys can’t shoot them down BEFORE they wreak havoc at a cost orders of magnitude higher than the cost of the drone itself? Can you guys only shoot them down on return flights?

    Or are the wrecks faked too, like everything else in Russia?


  4. Alex

    May 3, 2022 at 9:55 am

    William Scott Ritter, Jr. is an American military analyst. Intelligence officer in the United States Marine Corps. He served in this position for about 12 years. He became the Marine Rapid Deployment Force’s lead analyst on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iran-Iraq War. United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq.
    During Desert Storm, he served as an adviser to General Norman Schwarzkopf on ballistic missiles. Ritter later worked as a security and military consultant for the Fox News network. According to an interview he gave to Democracy Now! in 2003, he also had a long official relationship with the British foreign intelligence agency MI6.
    If the Bandera Nazis start squealing that he was bought by Putin, then let them shove their squeal up their ass.
    Here are Scott Ritter’s words:

    “Do you want to name the best students of military science today? These are Russian officers! And we treat them like children – “these are Russians.” And they are the most educated and trained officers of all who can be found. They understand everything better than us. They didn’t spend 20 years kicking down doors and slaughtering families in Iraq or crawling up hills in Afghanistan to kill a shepherd, that’s what we did, and the Russians think big.

    We think in small arrows. We watch a video of how a Russian column is destroyed or three tanks are knocked out. War is hell, people die there, and if you look at the little arrows, you will think that the Russians are defeated. But look at the big arrows! The Russians kept the 100,000-strong group of Ukraine in Kyiv. If they are not threatened, they will move forward for reinforcements.

    Therefore, you (Russians) send 40 thousand soldiers from Belarus and hold the enemy in place. You have 80,000 enemy forces in Odessa, you send 30,000 soldiers from Crimea – their (Security Council of Ukraine) group is stuck. You have 100,000 enemies in the Donbass, and you, the Russian troops, cannot let them go to Kyiv. You send the militia of Donetsk and Lugansk to the front line. The most difficult situation! But you clung to the enemy and hold him, don’t let him move!

    You are conducting a through attack to break through the corridor to the Crimea. And Mariupol is a key city on the way, we had to take it. The only city for which the Russians fought. Why? Because he was the only one that mattered. The rest played no role.

    You will not take 3 million Kyiv with a force of 40 thousand. It doesn’t happen! You will not take 1.6 million Kharkiv with a force of 50 thousand. But you will take Mariupol. They had to take it. This was a strategic necessity.

    This whole phase was the preparation of the battlefield. The Russians have destroyed fuel storage facilities in Ukraine. What is a tank without fuel? Coffin! And the truck? Another coffin. Warehouses of ammunition and food are blown up. A soldier who is hungry and thirsty will be killed.

    The Russians have rearranged everything for themselves in order to prepare for a massive pincer attack that will fall into the forces of the Ukrainians, who will have no food, no water, no fuel, no ammunition. Here’s what the second phase will look like.

    The Russians have moved away from Kyiv, they no longer need to hold that grouping, it will not be able to move without fuel anyway. They’re stuck! If they leave the city, Russian aircraft will destroy them. There will be no reinforcements, the enemy in Donbas cannot move. They are trapped.

    The Russians have closed the ring and will destroy everyone. Or they will capture a huge part of the Ukrainian army. And when that happens, there will be nothing left. And the Russians will be able to demand whatever they want. That’s why I say the Russians will win. Because I see the situation. I do not flatter myself with the illusions that “the Russians could not take Kyiv and Odessa.” THEY DIDN’T TRY!”

    • Joel Whitehurst

      May 11, 2022 at 3:24 pm

      American “military analysts” told us the Ukrainians would lose the entire war in 3 days. Common sense tells me that believing their predictions is not a wise thing to do.

  5. CK

    May 4, 2022 at 6:04 am

    There is a video on CBS explaining how it works, with a nice bit of historical Karma I was unaware of:

    Did you know the CEO of the company that makes it, is an Afghan Refugee from the failed Soviet invasion of Afghanistan? Hilarious how that happens, huh?

    You fuck around and sooner or later you get fucked too.

  6. Alex

    May 4, 2022 at 8:07 am

    German journalist Thomas Röper: Ukrainians are very afraid that the Russians will leave.
    The journalist spoke about the distortion of facts in the Western media:

    “I was three times in the south (Ukraine). The first trip was also to Melitopol. And so, on this trip, I was most impressed by the fact, or the fear that you see there in the eyes of people. And not among those who do not agree with the military operation, and according to my estimates, this is a minority. It is they who swear, the camera writes, and they will say how much they disagree. And those who agree are the majority.

    I see it in the squares, when there are hundreds of people, they walk past the soldiers and say in a whisper: “Thank you guys, don’t leave.” They are very afraid, and they said it directly. They are very afraid that the Russians will leave and there will be reprisals. What, in my understanding, happened in Bucha, by the way.

    And the fact that now, Alina said, from Mariupol is another such example. The woman was afraid to just speak the truth. Afraid that, God forbid, the Russians would leave and there would be reprisals. I don’t want to take too much time now, I just want to give one example, because the West always says it’s Russian propaganda if they say that Azov and other units of the Ukrainian troops use civilians as a “human shield”.

    I write in German, and the other day I read an article in the German magazine Spiegel, which is probably known to many. And there was a very surprising offer. So they wrote… Everything, of course, sounded very positive, but they wrote that in Mariupol… More precisely, they (the newspaper) were told by people in Zaporozhye who had come from Mariupol, telling them that their national battalions held them, “politely of course”, held peaceful residents to the basement, and took positions in the apartments above these basements. It sounds in the Western media as if they are protecting them. Excuse me, what is this? If the fighters take up their combat positions above the basements where civilians are sitting, and how voluntarily they went to this basement.

    Most people know the truth, but the Western media do not need this truth, they have a different manual, you need to do everything the other way around, and if it doesn’t work out the way America wants, you get sanctions, but the EU countries, not Russia, they will die after the first package of sanctions.

  7. CK

    May 4, 2022 at 9:33 am

    It’s pointless to argue with this troll. He is not here for engagement, as he has realised recently pretty much everybody on this board is against him. He has been transparently exposed as the exceedingly obvious Internet Research Agency employee he is, working for Yevgeny Prigozhin – an oligarch with close ties to Putin.

    He is either operating out of the IRA headquarters building at 55 Savushkina Street, St.Petersburg if he is lucky, or more likely, out of a shed in the massive Arsenal Machine-Building Factory at Komsomol, 1-3, also St.Petersburg, if he is unlucky.

    I gather the latter, seeing as he is exceedingly stupid and dim-witted, as you have noticed. His tactics are fairly simple:

    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 his “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.

    Having realised he can’t gain traction on this board now, he has resorted to two simple strategies:

    1) Be the first to comment on any article. This ensures anyone reading the article for the first time will inevitably stumble upon whatever his message of the day is, before it gets buried.

    2) Ideally, be the LAST person to comment on any article. Have the last say. For the same reasons as above. If there is a large discussion, people will usually scroll all the way down, and voila, you see his targeted message again.

    And that’s it. Every day, he blankets every article with the same copy + pasted content, over and over again. Saturation. This is how he ensures the message is seen one way or another.

    Funnily enough, if you copy + paste some of his bollocks onto google, you find other websites where you can almost verbatim find 100% matches. These are either Alex himself operating elsewhere, or the “daily script” these idiots are given by their supervisors to disseminate for this day, sent by other colleagues. You can find dozens of duplicates for example, on: (An obvious Kremlin mouthpiece, with an English service)

    Unfortunately, the shoddy or non-existent moderation and supervision of this website allows this to happen day, after day, after day. Anywhere else, he would have been banned by now.

    Here are some links to learn more about how they operate: (An account by an ex-employee, basically Alex if he ever grew any balls)

  8. Joel Whitehurst

    May 11, 2022 at 3:21 pm

    “Brilliant” American “military advisors” said the Ukrainians would lose the entire war in 3 days. I’m a little bit hesitant to believe anything they say. Common sense tells me that’s wise.

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