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“My understanding of this new drone is that it’s not a traditional drone – what some call a ‘loitering weapon,’” said Pete Phillips, a retired Marine helicopter pilot. “It gives you the ability to launch it in a 300 series or 600 series, and the 600 series has a loiter time of about 40 minutes, so you’re looking at the ability to launch this remotely-piloted weapon and have it sit above a battle space.”
Fox News confirmed Wednesday that the U.S. will send Switchblade drones to Ukraine after NBC first reported it. The drones, at a cheaper cost, will provide two possible benefits to bolster Ukraine’s efforts: limiting collateral damage and enhancing Ukrainian forces’ guerilla tactics.
“From the videos, you have the ability to wave off,” Phillips said. “You can target a vehicle, but say a civilian or non-combatant enters the scene, the user can dismiss the target command.”
“That’s a game-changer,” he stressed. “It has the potential to limit collateral damage on the battlefield, but the other great thing is to give the Ukrainian people stand-off capabilities.”
A user can deploy the weapon from what looks like a launcher tube from virtually anywhere: The mobile capabilities provide a significant enhancement on the Ukrainian forces’ guerilla tactics. The weapon’s smaller size also makes it harder to target despite its loitering capabilities.
“Those are rather large drones,” he explained, referring to traditional models. “You’re looking at something the size of a motor tube that we would launch … it pops out and it loiters on the battlefield.
“If you didn’t hear it, you won’t see it. You have to be actively looking for them to target them.”
The drone itself is the weapon, with the intention that the pilot flies the drone into the intended target, giving it the nickname of a “kamikaze drone.”
“This is the munition itself. You look at a predator, you need an airfield to launch … you launch [the switchblade], once it hits its target, you’re done. You don’t have to recover it.”
Luckily, the Switchblade drone is much cheaper than the traditional unit: The switchblade costs around $6000 per unit versus the millions to build a traditional drone. The U.S. can provide more of the switchblade drones at a cheaper cost that will better supplement Ukrainian forces.