AeroVironment introduces latest Switchblade 300 suicide drone
AeroVironment has rolled out its latest variant of its Switchblade 300 loitering missile system, more commonly known as a suicide drone. Building on the previous Block 10C, the Switchblade 300 Block 20 boasts greater endurance and ease of operation.
Introduced in 2011, the Switchblade 300 series was designed to provide US Army foot soldiers with their own backpackable air support weapons. Where other drones are designed for reconnaissance, the Switchblade 300 can loiter in the air until its sensors acquire a target then destroy it using a built-in warhead that delivers a forward-firing shotgun blast effect to minimize collateral damage.
In 2022, the Switchblade 300 came to public prominence when the US sent 700 to Ukraine to combat the Russian invasion. With the need to replenish US munitions while supplying additional drones to Ukraine, AeroVironment is abandoning the Block 10C for the more advanced Block 20.
Built especially for small expeditionary units, the Switchblade 300 Block 20 has a gross weight of about 8 lb (3.6 kg) and is designed to be carried and operated by a single soldier using a tablet-based Fire Control System that also acts as a training aid.
The combination storage tube/launcher can put the 4-lb (2-kg) drone into the air in less than two minutes. This tube also includes an integrated control and the system can be launched from land, sea, and mobile platforms.
Once aloft, the new Switchblade has a top speed of 100 mph (160 km/h) and a flight endurance of 20 minutes – five minutes more than the previous version. It has a better Digital Data Link (DDL) range, a new EO/IR panning camera suite to provide real-time video of targets, and the ability to send back intelligence, such as GPS coordinates of targets. In the event of non-combatants being seen in a target area, the drone can be waved off and then retargeted against other stationary or moving targets.
"Since pioneering the loitering missile category with Switchblade 300 more than a decade ago, our tactical missile systems have proven to be a game-changing capability for both US and allied forces, providing a remarkably rapid, precise and effective way to address lethal threats," said Brett Hush, AeroVironment’s vice president and product line general manager of tactical missile systems. "Switchblade 300 Block 20 will continue to build on the system’s battle-proven legacy."
Check out a video introducing the Switchblade 300 Block 20 on YouTube.