US Training Ukrainian Troops On Switchblade Kamikaze Drones

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by Tyler Durden
Friday, Apr 08, 2022 - 08:15 AM

A little over a week ago the US revealed that it is sending 100 killer drone systems to Ukraine as part of huge new $800 million weapons package approved by the Biden administration last month. The small, low-cost but high tech weapons, called "Switchblade" drones are a type of "kamikaze drone" in that they act as guided missiles capable of loitering before slamming into their targets.

"We have committed 100 Switchblade tactical unmanned aerial systems to be delivered in the most recent package of presidential drawdown," assistant secretary of Defense for international security affairs Celeste Wallander previously told the House Armed Services Committee. This week the Pentagon revealed it has already trained a "small number" of Ukrainian soldiers in how to operate the Switchblade weapon system.

Switchblade drone. Image: industry handout by AeroVironment

Presumably this training was done outside of Ukraine itself - likely in neighboring Poland given earlier President Biden confirmed that US advisers were training Ukrainian soldiers there.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters in a Wednesday press briefing that "a very small number" of Ukrainian soldiers have been trained. He explained that they're expected to "return to their country to train others on the equipment," according to The Hill

"We took the opportunity — having them still in the country — to give them a couple of days’ worth of training on the Switchblade so that they can go back — and they will be going back soon, back home — to train others in the Ukrainian military," Kirby said.  

So far the program might have included merely less than a dozen Ukrainian personnel trained on the Switchblade, which in the '600 series' version is capable of destroying tanks after being able to loiter for up to 40 minutes.

NBC previously described, "The Switchblades are essentially robotic smart bombs, equipped with cameras, guidance systems and explosives. They can be programmed to automatically strike targets miles away, and they can be steered around objectives until the time is right to strike. The company says the 600 can fly for 40 minutes and up to 50 miles."

One military analysis report suggested that as many as 1,000 Switchblade drones could be bound for Ukraine from the US manufacturer:

But the term “unmanned system” doesn’t actually refer to an individual drone, but rather to a complete package of ground launch and control systems, and potentially multiple drones. And indeed according to journalist Michael Weiss, a military source indicated each Switchblade Tactical System includes ten drones.

That means Ukraine may be receiving up to a thousand single-shot suicide drones, not 100.

That said, there might also be a mix of different drone types (such as unarmed surveillance drones) within the count of 100 drone systems or even different models of the Switchblade.

Below: the Switchblade being live tested at a Utah proving ground...

The 600 version, the more advanced and larger of the two variants, is said to be capable of taking out tanks and armored vehicles, and artillery. Wired magazine has previously described the small drone as a "six-pound foldable mashup of missile and drone."