The United States is in the process of sending 100 Switchblade drones to Ukraine as it fights Russia’s invasion, Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, said in a House Armed Services Committee hearing that the drones were part of the $800 million in military assistance that President Biden announced earlier this month. But Wallander didn’t say which version of the Switchblade was being sent to Ukraine. There are two variants of the weapon, the Switchblade 300 and the 600. It was not immediately clear which version the U.S. deployed to Ukraine. The Switchblade 300 is estimated to cost as little as $6,000.
A fact sheet of the weapons package, which Biden announced on March 16 following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s virtual address to Congress, said that Ukraine would be getting “100 tactical unmanned aerial systems” that the White House described in a fact sheet about the drones. Shortly after Biden announced the deal, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas,) ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Politico that the Switchblades were part of the deal, which an administration official later confirmed to the outlet. The U.S. has rushed over $2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the start of the Biden administration.
The AeroVironment Switchblade is a miniature loitering munition designed by AeroVironment and used by several branches of the United States military. Small enough to fit in a backpack, the Switchblade launches from a tube, flies to the target area, and crashes into its target while detonating its explosive warhead. Introduced in 2011, the original Switchblade was rebranded the Switchblade 300 after the Switchblade 600 anti-armor variant was unveiled in 2020. In late 2012, 75 Switchblades were supplied to U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. On 31 March 2021, AeroVironment was awarded a USD26.1 million contract by SOCOM for the Switchblade 600.
The Switchblade 300 is designed as an expendable UAV to increase precision firepower for platoon-sized infantry units. It is 2 ft (610 mm) long and weighs 6 lb (2.7 kg) including the carrying case and launcher, making it small and light enough for one soldier to carry. The larger Switchblade 600 loitering munition weighs 50 lb (23 kg), is man-portable and can be set up in 10 minutes. It is designed to fly out to 40 km (25 mi) in 20 minutes, then loiter for another 20 minutes (giving it an 80 km (50 mi) total range). It attacks at a 115 mph (185 km/h) dash speed, carrying a Javelin anti-armor warhead designed to neutralize armored vehicles.