U.S. Army Looks to Switchblade Loitering Smart Mortar with Live Video Feed

Military & Aerospace Electronics provided an update on the Army’s use of the Switchblade loitering munition, as follows.  U.S. Army fire support experts needed manpackable armed unmanned aircraft that have become notable for their use in Ukraine against invading Russian military forces. They found their solution from AeroVironment Inc. in Arlington, Va.  The Switchblade attack drone system, which essentially functions as a smart mortar round, transmits live color and infrared video wirelessly after launch for display on a small ground-control unit. The operator confirms the target using the live video feed, commands the air vehicle to arm its payload and lock its trajectory onto the target.

The Switchblade UAV weapon reportedly has been successful in Ukraine against Russian light combat vehicles and other valuable targets of opportunity. Ukraine officially uses the Switchblade 300 attack drone. Controllers can manipulate the Switchblade loitering munition from as far away as 6.2 miles, and the missile can operate for as long as 10 minutes. It can engage long-range targets and help to relieve warfighters who are pinned down by enemy fire. The Switchblade 300 uses compressed air to shoot out of its launch tube, and has an electric engine for propulsion. The loitering munition uses a fly-by-radio frequency signal, and daylight and infrared cameras to lock on to stationary and moving targets.

The photos, which are from a few years ago, show how tube-launched loitering munitions like the Switchblade unfurl their wings in flight. Switchblade can be launched from submerged submarines, as well. Our thanks to CDR David Place (USN/Ret), davidplace47[at]gmail[dot]com, for his assistance with this report, the background for which appeared in USN Edition # 23 - 8 - 17 JULY 2023 edition of the UNMANNED SYSTEMS NEWS (USN).

David distributes the USN, a free, comprehensive newsletter in PDF format every three to four weeks  as well as serial news flashes, from which this NREF news update was sourced. To be included in his distribution, simply send a subscribe request to davidplace47[at]gmail[dot]com.