AeroVironment has unveiled its latest loitering missile unmanned aircraft system for the US Army and other customers. Based on the Switchblade 300, which was deployed with US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2011, the Switchblade 600 is larger with increased capabilities.
One of the results of the introduction of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) into the infantry and other ground forces is that it has freed soldiers from dependence on conventional aircraft for reconnaissance and strike support. As such, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have become more sophisticated and intelligent, some have evolved into loitering missiles capable of taking on light armored targets with little in the way of collateral damage.
Where the original Switchblade 300 weighed in at 5.5 lb (2.5 kg) and is backpackable in its combination storage tube/launcher that allows it to be deployed in under two minutes, the Switchblade 600 tips the scales at 50 lb (22.7 kg), can be transported by land, sea, or air vehicles and takes about 10 minutes to bring into action. It also has a top speed of 115 mph (185 km/h) compared to the 300’s 100 mph (160 km/h). Like the 300, the 600 sends back real-time video and cursor-on-target GPS coordinates to the operator.
According to AeroVironment, the Switchblade 600 can take on both light armored vehicles and hardened stationary targets beyond the line-of-sight from multiple angles for the greatest effect and minimal collateral damage. However, it cannot engage a target without a man-in-the-loop arming sequence. This provides the Switchblade with a “wave off” feature that allows the operator to cancel the attack within seconds of reaching the target, and re-engage again.
Features for the Switchblade 600 include a stealthy, low acoustic, visual, and thermal signature; a high-performance EO/IR gimbaled sensor suite; a precision flight control; and more than 40 minutes of flight time thanks to the electric propulsion system. In addition, it is equipped for tactical Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition (RSTA), giving the missile the ability to fly up to 50 mi (80 km), then carry out autonomous confirmation orbits of the target.
For control, the Switchblade 600 relies on a new touch-screen, tablet-based Fire Control System (FCS) that the operator can use to guide the UAS to its target by a simple tap on the screen. The tablet system also includes a simulator, mission planner, as well as communications with the Switchblade 600 via its secure AES-256 digital encryption and SAASM GPS systems.
“Since pioneering the loitering missile category with Switchblade 300 more than 10 years ago, AeroVironment has worked with multiple new customers to develop scalable variants that could address new mission requirements,” says Wahid Nawabi, AeroVironment president and chief executive officer. “Now that Switchblade 300 has been adopted by the US Army for its LMAMS program, our customers are eager to deploy Switchblade 600 because it can address larger, hardened targets in a more precise, rapid and cost-effective manner than legacy missile systems. We anticipate continued expansion of our family of loitering missile systems to help our customers proceed with certainty across a broader set of missions.”
The video below introduces the new Switchblade UAS.
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