AeroVironment has unveiled its latest loitering missile unmanned aircraft system for the US Army and other customers. Based on the Switchblade 300, which was deployed with US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2011, the Switchblade 600 is larger with increased capabilities.
One of the results of the introduction of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) into the infantry and other ground forces is that it has freed soldiers from dependence on conventional aircraft for reconnaissance and strike support. As such, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have become more sophisticated and intelligent, some have evolved into loitering missiles capable of taking on light armored targets with little in the way of collateral damage.
Where the original Switchblade 300 weighed in at 5.5 lb (2.5 kg) and is backpackable in its combination storage tube/launcher that allows it to be deployed in under two minutes, the Switchblade 600 tips the scales at 50 lb (22.7 kg), can be transported by land, sea, or air vehicles and takes about 10 minutes to bring into action. It also has a top speed of 115 mph (185 km/h) compared to the 300’s 100 mph (160 km/h). Like the 300, the 600 sends back real-time video and cursor-on-target GPS coordinates to the operator.