The US Army has given AeroVironment a $5 million contract for a lethal backpack UAV called the Switchblade. It is the first announced order for this type of weapon but it has probably been in the hands of special forces since 2009. It was unveiled at a 2008 weapons show. The Switchblade gives light forces the ability to engage personnel or light vehicles in defilade or behind structures, with high precision and low collateral damage – the warhead is grenade-sized. Its loitering and patrol capability is 30 minutes to pin down hostiles.


The US Army has given AeroVironment a $5 million contract for the Switchblade lethal backpack UAV, including engineering services and operational systems. The contract, issued at the end of June by the Close Combat Weapons Systems office, is believed to be the first announced order for this class of weapon.

Switchblade was unveiled at the AUVSI show in San Diego in June 2008 and more progress was reported in 2009. 

 

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Using many components from the Wasp mini-UAV, the two-pound Switchblade is tube-launched (so the operator can stay under cover) with tandem flip-out wings and electric propulsion. The operator can search for a target with the UAV’s live video camera, then arm it and lock it on. The operator can abort the attack after lock-on, and if necessary it can loiter to search for targets.

 

Switchblade gives light forces the ability to engage personnel or light vehicles in defilade or behind structures, with high precision and low collateral damage – the warhead is grenade-sized. Its loitering capability an pin down hostile troops.

The USAF has a parallel program called Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System (LMAMS), intended to provide a similar weapon for USAF special operations teams. Switchblade is one candidate for LMAMS. Textron, AAI and Prioria are competing with the Tactical Remote Aerial Munition (T-RAM), using Prioria’s roll-up carbonfiber wing, and MBDA is pitching the inflatable-wing Tiger.

Key LMAMS specifications include the ability to get the system ready to fire in 30 seconds, to fly out to a specified range in 20 seconds, loiter for up to 30 minutes and hit with one-meter accuracy. So far, LMAMS is a demonstration program and the end user has not funded an operational version.

Graham Warwick adds: No Switchblade video yet, but here is one of Textron’s T-RAM – shot during the recent demonstration for the Air Force’s LMAMS requirement. It illustrates the capability of these new weapons.

 

Video: Textron Defense Systems


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