This is how the fearsome weapon sent by the U.S. to Ukraine works: a ‘kamikaze’ drone capable of destroying Russian tanks
Ukraine is getting support from a large number of Western countries. In fact, just a few days ago, U.S. President Joe Biden announced the shipment of 100 Switchblade tactical drones, known as suicide drones because of the way they work: they explode the moment they hit their target.
First developed to counter insurgents in Afghanistan, the Switchblade drone has become a staple of the U.S. Army’s conventional and special operations arsenals. There are two models of this ‘kamikaze’ drone: the Switchblade 300 and the Switchblade 600. What differentiates them is the size of the ammunition they carry.
U.S. Special Operations Command has been using the Switchblade 300 since early 2010, and in September awarded AeroVironment an €18 million contract for the Switchblade 600.
The Switchblade 300 carries an explosive charge the size of a Claymore mine – an anti-personnel mine made of C4 explosive and hundreds of small metal bearings – and is designed to take out infantry and artillery targets.
Measuring 60 centimeters and weighing about 2.5 kilograms, the Switchblade 300 can be carried in a backpack and launched from a small mortar-like tube. It has a speed of 160 km/h, but a very short operational range of only 15 minutes (or 9.65 kilometers), making it truly tactical.
The Switchblade 600, on the other hand, carries a larger explosive payload. It has a longer operational range of 40 minutes (or 24 miles) and a cruising speed of 112 km/h, but it is also heavier, at 54 kilograms. With an explosive payload similar to that of the Javelin anti-tank missile, the Switchblade 600 is designed to shoot down tanks and armored targets.
The Switchblade 600 can “track and engage targets out of line of sight and accurately destroy light armored vehicles with lethal effects.” The 600 model can be easily transported and deployed from any type of vehicle and allows operators to engage targets while minimizing their exposure to enemy fire.
Both loitering missile (or marauding munitions) have an on-board sensor with GPS to guide them to the target, and can engage both moving and stationary objects. They also include a “disable” feature that allows the operator to abort an attack if circumstances change on the ground, for example, if civilians approach the target.
In addition to conducting strikes, Switchblades can gather tactical information, perform surveillance, target acquisition and provide reconnaissance to operators and help commanders develop better situational awareness on the battlefield.