The US is sending Switchblade kamikaze drones to Ukraine as part of a new $300 million military aid package. Kyiv will also get a small tactical drone, the Puma, which can work together with the loitering munitions as hunter-killer teams, CRUX reported.
The Switchblade is a loitering munition, designed by AeroVironment and used by several branches of the United States military.
The Switchblade 600 (introduced in 2020) which will be send to Ukraine weighs 54.5 kg and can be set up in 10 minutes. It is designed to fly out to 40 km in 20 minutes, then loiter for another 20 minutes (giving it an 80 km total range). It attacks at a 185 km/h, carrying an ATGM warhead based on the Javelin ATGM, designed to neutralize armored vehicles.
In October 2022, AeroVironment said it was capable of producing more than 2,000 Switchblade 600 systems annually, and that it planned within a few months to increase production capacity to 6,000 per year.
In addition, Ukraine announced it will buy 11 AeroVironment PUMA-LE reconnaissance drones. “These drones are equipped with a conventional and thermal imaging camera with 6x zoom. This allows identifying the enemy during day, night, and under any weather conditions,” Mykhailo Fedorov, Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, announced on Telegram.
Puma LE has an overall length of 2.2m and a wingspan of 4.6m. It weighs 10.2kg with Mantis i45 payload, while the maximum gross take-off weight (MGTOW) is 11.8kg. The flight endurance is approximately 5.5 hours. It has a range of 20km which can be extended to more than 60km with the use of long range tracking antenna (LRTA).
AertoVironment, the manufacturer of Puma LE, announced it received a US$10,534,348 firm-fixed-price US Department of Defense Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract award on 21 January 2022. The contract included the delivery of PUMA LE small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) over a six-year period to an allied nation, as well as add-on air vehicle kits, initial spares packages, training and support.