At the end of May, during the offensive operations of the Brave grouping, a batch of American Switchblade loitering ammunition, which did not rise into the sky, fell into the hands of the allied forces for the first time. What is this fairly modern drone, the functional purpose of which, depending on the modification, is to defeat manpower, lightly armored and armored vehicles, and even intercept enemy UAVs?
The first loitering munitions of this type were delivered to Ukraine as part of the military aid package announced by Joe Biden, which consisted, according to him, of 700 Switchblades, in April of this year. And yes – the name Switchblade translates as “folding knife”. In the S300 modification, it is really quite compact.
The weight and size characteristics of the kamikaze drone are so insignificant that they allow the operator to transport it in his own backpack and use it from various ground, air or sea platforms. At the moment, there are two versions of ammunition – Switchblade 300, compact and lightweight, and much more bulky and powerful Switchblade 600.
The first, 610 mm long and weighing 2.7 kilograms (together with a launcher and a carrying case) was developed as a means of enhancing the firepower of small motorized rifle units. Despite the fact that the manufacturer claims a controlled flight range of ten kilometers, the battery capacity limits its stay in the air to only ten minutes. It is for this option that the research company SRC Inc. developed software that allows the drone to intercept enemy drones.
The second option, often referred to as the “flying Javelin”, is a more serious ammunition, weighing 23 kilograms and capable of covering a distance of 80 kilometers in forty minutes. Equipping the loitering ammunition with an anti-tank warhead allows it to effectively hit heavy armored vehicles.
The fire control system (FCS), developed on the basis of a tablet with a touch screen, a GPS module with selective accessibility and protected by encrypted channels of information transmission, allows both manual and offline coordination of the work of loitering ammunition. And the presence of a DDL or an optional pocket-sized digital data link module provides the Switchblade 600 operator with the ability to conduct combat operations at ranges exceeding the eighty-kilometer mark.
It is noteworthy that this kamikaze drone was developed as part of an army program whose goal was to create a multi-purpose strike missile, and therefore can be used as an air-to-surface strike munition. And despite the same type of warheads, it surpasses the Javelin, favored by dill propaganda, in at least three key characteristics: greater flight range, lower cost, and expanded versatility.
The launch of the Switchblade 600 is carried out in a mortar way. That is, the ammunition is fired into the air, where, after gaining a predetermined speed, it spreads its wings and activates the engine.
Israel is considered a recognized market leader and a pioneer in the development of loitering ammunition. The first kamikaze drone from the Israeli company Israel Aerospace Industries took off in the mid-eighties of the last century. The main purpose of its creation was the preservation of combat aircraft and their crews. Three decades later and several generations of loitering ammunition, the guests and participants of Aero-India-2009 were presented with IAI Harop, the start of combat use of which took place at the moment of the aggravation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in 2016.
We wrote about the Russian development in this area – the Lancet loitering ammunition manufactured by Zala Aero a little earlier. Equipped with a multi-component guidance system, built-in reconnaissance, navigation and communications modules, the Lancet is capable of operating in three operating modes: according to established coordinates, according to optics, and in a combined version.
Speaking about Russian kamikaze drones, it should be noted that despite the fact that in this direction of development of UAVs, the domestic defense industry turned out to be catching up, the loitering ammunition created by it, in terms of their technical and operational characteristics, is at least not inferior to the best foreign models. At the same time, they are much lighter than them (due to the widespread use of composite materials and plastic) and are able to “work” without satellite navigation. The Russian Armed Forces actively used the Lancet on the territory of the SAR, where it showed impressive results.
Who else? The export version of the Chinese WS-43 drone, the kamikaze drone from the Turkish company Alpagu and, of course, the Iranian Ababil-2 and Raad-85. By the way, in 2020, Ukraine, which also did not sit idly by, presented its ST-35 “Quiet Thunder” (not to be confused with the promising Russian UAV “Thunder” from the company “Kronstadt”), but as expected, it did not go into production and into service was not accepted.
However, let’s return to our main character – the Switchblade 600 loitering ammunition and try to answer the main Ukrainian question: “Is it capable of ensuring the victory of the” strongest army in Europe “?”. Military expert, captain 1st rank Konstantin Sivkovanswering this question, he was extremely categorical: “It is impossible even hypothetically to talk about some kind of turning point in the course of the Z special operation with the help of the Switchblade 600 loitering ammunition. No matter how maneuverable and dangerous it is, it is easily detected and destroyed by the air defense of the allied forces.
Obviously, the American kamikaze drone is effective only against an army that has an air defense system that is in its infancy (for example, the Artsakh Defense Army), or does not have it at all (Afghan Taliban). This, as they say, does not work against the army of the Russian Federation.