|Arthur Dominic Villasanta |||May 24, 2017 09:03 PM EDT|
(Photo : US Army) Launch of a Switchblade and the destruction of its target.
The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) recently received what appears to be its first shipment of "Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile" systems (LMAM), confirming the combat value of this "Kamikaze" drone first deployed in the ongoing War in Afghanistan.
The LMAMs delivered to USSOCOM are the "AeroVironment Switchblade" developed by California-based AeroVironment, Inc. This 2.7 kg UAV was originally designed for use by U.S. Army infantry and the United States Marine Corps.
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Switchblade has a range of 10 km can be used for suicide precision strikes at distant targets. The U.S. military refers to tube-launched Switchblade as a "kamikaze drone."
The recently upgraded Switchblade is small enough to be carried in a soldier's backpack and can be launched from a variety of ground, maritime and air platforms. Once engaged, Switchblade locks onto a target and flies autonomously toward it, exploding on impact. It can also be used for reconnaissance.
The U.S. Army classifies the Switchblade as a missile rather than a drone. It prefers to use the term "loitering munition" to describe Switchblade since the weapon isn't recoverable after launch.
U.S. Army commanders reported Switchblade was very effective in Afghanistan as a Kamikaze. Over 4,000 Switchblades were deployed to Afghanistan
AeroVironment describes Switchblade as a "miniature flying lethal missile can be operated manually or autonomously." The drone can fly for about 15 minutes at up to 100 miles per hour.
USSOCOM will use Switchblade to attack rapidly adapting non-state enemies like the Islamic State. It does, however, want a bigger suicide drone packing a heavier warhead.
Army Col. John Reim, who outfits special operations troops as head of USSOCOM's Warrior program office, said he needs missile drones that can blow up bigger targets.
"We have a good capability right now with the Switchblade. But it's got a smaller payload. How do you get a little larger?" said Col. Reim.
"We're trying to create organic firepower and situational awareness in so many of the places we operate in."
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