A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

May 8, 2022

Ukraine Has Now Used the Switchblade "Kamikaze" Drone Against Russian Forces

They are known as loitering munitions because they can circle over a battlefield until directed to hit a target. They are called 'kamikazes' because they destroy themselves when they hit the intended target. 

It was known that they were being supplied to Ukraine and that Ukrainian troops were being trained in their use, but evidence has now surfaced that they are being used in battle, which is noteworthy as the time from delivery to training to application is shorter than it would have been with NATO forces. JL

Boyko Nikolov reports in BulgarianMilitary.com:

The Switchblade 300 and 600 are unmanned aerial vehicles known as loitering munitions.  They are robotic intelligent bombs, ie. kamikazes, equipped with electro-optical surveillance, detection, and search systems. The advantage of this type of kamikaze drone is that they are much cheaper than standard air-to-ground or air-to-air missiles. The Switchblade 300 costs just $6,000, while one Hellfire air-to-surface missile costs approximately $150,000. The Switchblade “flies much faster than the Bayraktar TB2”. The Switchblade 300 and Switchblade 600 are fired in minutes from a launch tube.

Officially, the Ukrainian armed forces use kamikaze drones known as loitering munition Switchblade 300, which were delivered from the United States earlier. Photos on social media show a completely destroyed drone. It is unclear whether the drone was shot down by Russian forces or fulfilled its mission.

First recorded use of US-made Switchblade 300 kamikaze in Ukraine
Photo: Twitter

Ukraine Weapons Tracker claims that the remains of the Switchblade 300 were discovered by Russian forces in the Kharkiv Oblast region. Of course, it is not possible to prove when the photos were taken and whether they were really from the cited region.

Experts suggest that the Switchblade 300 has most likely fulfilled its purpose, ie. he blew himself up, or hit, and blew up the target. Examining the photos, they noticed that only the tail [rear part] of the drone was taken in the photos. According to the design of the Switchblade 300, the explosive part is in front of the drone, ie. the explosive head is missing, which means that the drone is working as intended, but whether it hit something remains questionable.

First recorded use of US-made Switchblade 300 kamikaze in Ukraine
Photo: Twitter

Another proof that the Switchblade 300 was used for its intended purpose is the lack of the outer shell, which means that it burned out in an explosion. The photos also show burnt parts. However, another camera with wood screws is attached, which is strange.

There are fears that the drone has not been completely destroyed, however, and the question remains whether the Russians could access some of the technologies developed and used in the Switchblade 300.

Switchblade 300 and Switchblade 600

Switchblades is developed in two versions – Switchblade 300 and Switchblade 600. Both versions are in service only in the United States Army and United States Marine Corps. Interestingly, the US government has banned the manufacturer – AeroVironment to demonstrate the capabilities of the second option – Switchblade 600.

In reality, the Switchblade 300 and Switchblade 600 are unmanned aerial vehicles such as robotic intelligent bombs, ie. kamikaze. Like other drones, the Switchblade 300 and Switchblade 600 are equipped with electro-optical surveillance, detection, and search systems.

According to the manufacturer, the second version of the Switchblade 600 can travel 80 km in 40 minutes. Both versions are programmable for auto-hitting targets and have the ability after takeoff the operator to change their trajectory and direct them to another target.

First recorded use of US-made Switchblade 300 kamikaze in Ukraine
Photo: Twitter

The advantage of this type of kamikaze drone is that they are relatively much cheaper than standard air-to-ground or air-to-air missiles. According to unofficial data, the Switchblade 300 costs just $6,000, while one Hellfire air-to-surface missile costs approximately $150,000.

Analysts compare the currently used Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones to the American Switchblade kamikaze drones, saying that the Switchblade “flies much faster than the Bayraktar TB2”. The Switchblade 300 and Switchblade 600 are tuned and fired in minutes from the launch tube.

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