The newest member of AeroVironment’s family of loitering missile systems, Switchblade 600, represents the next generation of extended-range loitering missiles. AeroVironment, a leading defense technology company, has been at the forefront of innovation in developing advanced unmanned systems for the military. Building on its track record of innovation, AeroVironment has been working closely with DoD customers to expand its loitering missile systems with cutting-edge capabilities that can support COIN (Counterinsurgency) and peer/near-peer operations. In this article, we will look closer at the Switchblade 600 and its advanced capabilities that set it apart from its predecessors.
These elusive devices possess a deceptive nature, seemingly impervious to the air defense systems currently in place. They can linger in a designated region while the operator surveys potential targets. Suddenly and without warning, they plummet to attack their intended objectives. The Switchblade 300 is capable of eliminating transport vehicles and personnel. On the other hand, the 600 variant operates more like a flying Javelin missile, capable of engaging larger targets, including tanks. Moreover, the Switchblade 600 can deploy two Switchblade 300 while still in the air, thus extending their reach and engaging multiple targets.
The Switchblade 600 is a larger, more advanced version of its backpackable predecessor Switchblade 300. The missile system is an all-in-one, man-portable (50 lb.) solution that includes everything needed to launch, fly, track, and engage non-line-of-sight targets with lethal effects. It can be set up and operational in less than ten minutes. The self-contained, tube-based launch system allows flexibility to be launched from the ground, air, or mobile vehicle platforms. With a 115 mph dash speed, and an onboard multi-purpose anti-armor warhead, Switchblade 600 has the firepower to engage and prosecute hardened static and moving light armored vehicles from multiple angles with precisely localized effects while minimizing collateral damage.
Precision Effects on Target
With a high-performance EO/IR gimbaled sensor suite, precision flight control, and more than 40 minutes of flight time, Switchblade 600 delivers unprecedented tactical reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA). This allows Switchblade 600 to transit up to 80 km to a target area before conducting multiple confirmatory orbits and engaging in target prosecution – without needing external ISR or fire assets. Switchblade 600 delivers unprecedented precision, control, and effects on the target, addressing missions previously performed with ‘fire and forget’ legacy missile systems.
Intuitive Touch-Screen, Tablet-Based Fire Control System
AeroVironment has introduced an intuitive touch-screen, tablet-based Fire Control System (FCS) with tap-to-target guidance and the option to pilot the vehicle manually or autonomously. Combined with its built-in mission planner and training simulator, the FCS provides operators with an intuitive platform to plan and execute missions precisely while reducing cognitive load efficiently.
Security and Resilient Communications
Onboard AES 256 digital encryption and SAASM GPS provide the security, resilient communications, and signal integrity against anti-spoofing attacks needed to operate in today’s complex battlefronts. Switchblade 600 has been designed to support various Concepts of Employment (CONEMPs) and Operation (CONOPs) across contemporary and future operating environments.
Concepts of Employment (CONEMPs) and Operations (CONOPs)
Mission sets include the Force Protection of Forward Operating Bases in addition to Seek and Destroy missions targeting armored vehicles and troops in defilade, and they continue to successfully demonstrate these concepts through an ongoing operational flight test program. The Switchblade 600 was developed for the Army Single Multi-Mission Attack Missile development program. Other methods could include a six-pack vehicle-mounted version and air launch.
In October 2022, AeroVironment announced that it could produce more than 2,000 Switchblade 600 systems annually and planned to increase production capacity to 6,000 per year within a few months. The Switchblade 600, while larger and weightier than its predecessor, remains a portable device, manageable by a single individual. With a wider range, it is equipped with a warhead capable of penetrating tanks and bunkers. Given its price tag of around $70,000, it is prudent to reserve its use for high-value targets.
|Country of origin:||United States|
|Type:||anti-armor loitering munition|
|Targets:||tanks and armored vehicles|
|Weight system:||54.5 kg|
|Flight time:||20 minutes|
|Length:||1.3 m airframe|
|Users:||United States and Ukraine|