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Taiwan Plans to Purchase 100 AeroVironment Switchblade Kamikaze Drone in 2024

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Taiwan Plans to Purchase 100 AeroVironment Switchblade Kamikaze Drone in 2024

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AeroVironment Switchblade 300 Kamikaze Drone
AeroVironment Switchblade 300 Kamikaze Drone

Taiwan is planning to purchase 100 units of the Switchblade, a small, attack-type unmanned aerial vehicle ( also known as a kamikaze drone or a loitering munition) and give it to the Taiwanese Army’s special forces. The purchase is expected to take place in 2024 via foreign military sales (FMS) channel. Taiwan is taking a close look at such type of suicide drone after noticing its successful in the Ukrainian battlefield. An invitation to bid by the Navy suggest the service is seeking to acquire similar drones. More than 700 Switchblade 300 drones were sent to Ukraine by the United States as part of an arms package after the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Taiwanese media outlet Upmedia reported that the United States had agreed to sell the Switchblade to Taiwan in 2020 after becoming aware that Taipei is developing a similar system. However during this period, Taiwan was busy acquiring other new weapon systems such as HiMARs and Harpoon coastal missile system, and decided to delay the acquisition of the Switchblade. In order to comply with the resumption of one-year conscription, the military has obtained various weapons such as pistols, mortars, machine guns, missiles and continued to take stock of other required arms.

AeroVironment Switchblade Miniature Loitering Munition
AeroVironment Switchblade kamikaze drone/loitering munition (Photo by AeroVironment)

The Taiwanese state owned corporation NCSIST (National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology) is reportedly planning to begin testing its own suicide drone project this year. The institute has developed an imaging infrared acquisition system and a control system for the drone. It is expected that a private company will manufacture the airframe while NCSIST handles the integration of the guidance and control system. Taiwan is also approaching private companies to develop three types of indigenous drones. The three classes are: micro, target acquisition, and surveillance. Surveillance drones will be adapted for land and maritime environments as well.

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. The name switchblade comes from the way the spring-loaded wings are folded up inside a tube and flip out once released. Introduced in 2011, the original Switchblade was rebranded the Switchblade 300 after the much larger and very different Switchblade 600 anti-armor variant was unveiled in 2020. The Blackwing, an unarmed variant of the Switchblade 300 was released in 2015.

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