U.S. Sending Switchblade Drones to Ukraine: What They Are, Why It’s Important

by Suzanne Halliburton

The U.S. is sending $800 million worth of weapons to Ukraine. On the list are dive-bombing switchblade drones. The Army refers to them as flying shotguns.

Multiple reports say that the 100 “tactical unmanned aerial systems” on the official list of weapons are these switchblade drones. The U.S. military has used them for at least a dozen years since they were sent to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban in 2010.

The Switchblade Drone At a Glance

  • United States is sending $800 million worth of weapons to Ukraine to help fight the Russians.
  • Switchblade drones, known as flying shotguns, are on the list.
  • These drones are portable and weigh about six pounds.
  • It’s unclear whether U.S. also is sending the bigger Switchblades. They can fly for 40 minutes.

When you think of drones, you probably see an image of something that looks like an unmanned plane. Those are predator drones. And they fire a missile towards a target.

Meanwhile, each small switchblade drone is about two feet long and weighs up to six pounds. A Ukrainian soldier can store the drone in a backpack. Despite the small size and the convenience of carrying it, these weapons pack a huge punch.

The Switchblade 300 is launched from a small tube. It can fly for up to 15 minutes. The drone carries a warhead, which explodes when it hits the target. The Switchblade 600, which is a larger drone, can fly for 40 minutes. They’re effective in destroying armored targets. According to ABC News, it’s unclear whether the United States is sending both kinds of drones.

GPS guides the switchblade drones to the target. But the technology has a “wave off” feature. That way, if the soldier who shot the drone sees civilians near the target, he or she can change the drone’s trajectory.

These Flying Shotguns Cost About $6,000 a Piece

Each of the smaller drones cost about $6,000. Bloomberg reported that AeroVironment makes the weapons And the company’s stock rose almost 10 percent in Wednesday trading. The company’s headquarters is in Arlington, Va. Last September, the U.S. Special Operations Command awarded the company a $20.3 million contract for the “Switchblade 600.”

The company says the switchblade drones can zip up to 63 miles per hour.

“These were designed for U.S. Special Operations Command and are exactly the type of weapons systems that can have an immediate impact on the battlefield,” Mick Mulroy, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense, told ABC News.

Bloomberg News reported that the Ukrainian military has a fleet of Turkish-made drones. The soldiers have been using them against the Russians. But they still have a lot of inventory remaining.

President Joe Biden approved other weapons as well. The United States is sending 10,000 anti-armor weapons, 800 anti-aircraft Stinger systems and thousands of rifles.