Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Switchblade Drones: After ‘Super Success’ In Ukraine, Lithuania Inks Pact With The US To Procure ‘Tank-Buster’ UAVs

Lithuania’s Defense Ministry has signed a deal to purchase Switchblade 600 drones from the United States to enhance the country’s military capabilities.

The contract, announced by the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defense (MND), is projected to be worth €45 million (US $48 million). The US government and the Lithuanian MND’s procurement branch, Defense Materiel Agency, signed the agreement earlier this week. 

Lithuania is the first nation in the world to purchase the Switchblade 600 after the United States, according to Arvydas Anuauskas, Lithuania’s defense minister. The US-based company AeroVironment manufactures these kamikaze drones, also known as loitering munitions.

In addition to the Switchblade drones, the contract also covers purchasing related launch and control equipment and the maintenance and support package. The Lithuanian Armed Forces will also receive a personnel training simulation system from the US.

With the help of these new deployable battle drones, the Lithuanian Army will be able to obliterate enemy tanks and other armored vehicles up to 40 kilometers away, the defense minister said. 

Source: Aerovironment

“Our army has not had such a capacity until now,” Defense Minister Arvydas Anušauskas said. However, the number of Switchblade 600 systems Lithuania will acquire is unknown.

The US will also supply Switchblade 300 drones, a more compact and lightweight version of the Switchblade 600 drones, according to the Lithuanian MND. The US military aid funding will be used to pay for the delivery of Switchblade 300 drones.

The Switchblade 600 kamikaze is a long-range loitering munition produced by an American company. It is aimed at providing precision optics for destroying targets in a direct downward strike.

The new generation drone can fly for up to 40 minutes and can be utilized as an anti-tank system against big armored vehicles and tanks.

The procurement comes only days after the Lithuanian Ministry of Defense confirmed a contract with the United States to purchase eight high-mobility artillery rocket systems. Deliveries are planned for the years 2025-2026. 

Switchblade Drone In Ukraine 

Ukraine has employed Switchblade 300 drones in conflict as part of its efforts to stave off Russia’s ongoing invasion. 

The Switchblade 300 is a smaller version that a soldier can carry in a backpack. Its launching tube can be set up in a matter of minutes, and when it is fired, its folded wings emerge. 

A soldier can fly the Switchblade 300, which weighs 5.5 pounds and can travel up to 10 kilometers (6 miles), scanning the area with the munition’s camera in search of a target.

Once the target has been identified, the Switchblade can loiter while the user chooses where to launch the attack. Operators of switchblades can even adjust the attack angle to maximize damage.

Switchblade 300s have been employed to destroy “soft-skin” Russian targets such as fuel vehicles, personnel carriers, machine gun nests, trench positions, and dismounted infantry.

The US is also procuring Switchblade 600 loitering munitions for Ukraine. On September 20, the US Department of Defense website issued a document outlining the weapons the Ukrainian Armed Forces will receive from the US shortly.

Switchblade 600 drones

The Switchblade 600 kamikaze drones, which Ukraine had previously requested, are on the list. When the Switchblade 600 strikes the battlefield, Charlie Dean, AeroVironment’s vice president of sales and business development, believes it will be an even more lethal weapon than the previous model. 

He added that the weapon would be a “tank-killer” with a warhead as deadly as the Javelin but controlled and capable of traveling a far longer distance. 

Dean added that since Switchblades are precision weapons, it is more likely that Ukraine would only need one shot to strike its desired target rather than several rounds, as an artillery battle might require.

The greater visibility of the Ukraine war — videos of the weaponry in action often appear on social media and have been broadcast by Ukraine’s government — has attracted the attention of other countries. France declared in June that it would purchase Switchblades quickly to fill a capability shortfall in its Army.

Other nations near the western front of Russia are also buying combat UAVs. For instance, Poland is ready to acquire a fleet of MQ-9A Reaper drones that it leased from General Atomics in October. And earlier this week, Romania signed a new agreement with Israel’s Elbit Systems to purchase up to seven Watchkeeper X drones. 

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