AeroVironment SWITCHBLADE 300 gallery

The Switchblade is manufactured by the American firm AeroVironment, and has become a highly appreciated weapon by the troops due to its lightness, ease of use, and precision. The complete system is made up of the UAS, the launcher and the transport bag and together it weighs about 3.62kg. The UAS only weighs about 2.5kg, is 49cm long and 76mm in diameter and is launched into the air using a launch tube that is connected to a compressor that launches it using compressed air.
Switchblade system is controlled through a Ground Control Station (GCS) that also serves to control other models of drones from the same manufacturer. The US Army calls this system a “missile” and not a “drone”, since once launched, there is no possibility of recovering it for another mission. The Switchblade can be programmed to explode at a set height and the attack can be canceled by the operator up to 4 seconds before impact. It can also be self-destructed in flight by the operator if necessary.
This UAS is manually guided to the target, although it can be programmed to follow a pre-established route. It has a maximum range of about 10 km and can stay in flight for 15 minutes, flying at a height of about 150 meters. It is driven by an electric motor and the cruising speed is about 100 km/h although it accelerates at the time of the attack to 160 km/h. The Switchblade can be launched from any vehicle or naval platform since it does not require guidance equipment or support. This loitering missile is ready for use in 2 minutes after the firing order is given.
The warhead is effective against personnel and light armored vehicles and is designed to prevent collateral damage. Instead of causing an explosion that affects the 360º around, the explosion detonates forward, that is, in the direction of flight of the UAS. The Switchblade offers total flexibility of use, since it can be used at any time and circumstance depending exclusively on the platoon or squad commander. Since 2020 the Switchblade has been renamed “Switchblade 300” to differentiate it from the larger Switchblade 600, which appeared on those dates.
A new variant of the Switchblade 300 designated the “Switchblade Bloc 10C” appeared in 2016. The “Bloc 10C” weighs 2.7kg including the launcher and carrying case and measures 61cm in length, its range is 10km and it can fly for 10 minutes, reaching a top speed of 160km/h. It is equipped with a GPS locator and a color and IR camera and has a Digital Data Link (DDL) that makes it more resistant to electronic countermeasures and allows it to operate jointly with other Switchblades without interfering their signals.
Also in 2016, a system was presented that allowed the remote multiple launch of several Switchblades. This system is called Multi-Pack Launcher (MPL) and consists in a box shape container with space for 6 Switchblade that can be fired remotely from 30 meters away through a cable, being able to reload all 6 cells in 3 minutes. It is powered by a solar panel that feeds an internal battery or by power provided via a vehicle. The system occupies just under 1 cubic meter, weighs 60kg empty and 72.5kg loaded and can be installed in vehicles and ships.
The latest variant of the Switchblade 300 to appear is the “Bloc 20” which brings improvements such as a high-resolution EO/IR panning camera suite, a new touchscreen Fire Control System (FCS) and a 20 minute hover time. This new UAS provides real-time video that enables beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) targets to be engaged. The range is similar to the previous variants although its launch weight is 1.7kg and 3 different attack angles of 20º, 33º and 45º can be selected, as well as the detonation point. It has a length of 46 cm and a wingspan of 73 cm.
The entry into service of the Switchbalde dates back to 2012, when 75 units were delivered to the troops deployed in Afghanistan, which, after their effectiveness, ordered a large number of them. This system allowed the troops on the ground to have a kind of “immediate air support” and highly effective, at the same time that it was much more economical than the missions carried out by attack aircraft with precision weapons or attack helicopters.
It is estimated that the US Army received some 4,000 Switchblades during operations in Afghanistan, which ended in 2021. In addition, the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) received another 350 in 2017 for its fight against the Islamic State and it has been known that in March 2022 the The United States authorized the shipment of 100 Switchblade 300 to Ukraine to help in its fight against the invasion by Russia. Subsequently, more shipments have been made, estimating that in total around 700 Switchblade 300 loitering missiles have been sent.
The estimated price of the Switchblade was around 5,500 dollars per UAS (missile), apart from the guidance and launch equipment, but it seems that the ineffectiveness of this weapon in Ukraine, together with the increase in system costs, has led to the fact that in April 2023, the US Army has decided not to purchase more Switchblade 300 loitering missiles. For their part, Ukrainian soldiers (on the image) prefer to use commercial drones with adapted explosive charges, which are much cheaper to produce and can be deployed in greater numbers.

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