RC aircraft are cool. They’re a lot cooler when you can use them to blow up insurgents.
AeroVironment is fielding a new UAV called SWITCHBLADE for ‘field miniature lethal drone capability’ with SOF units. Selected in December 2010 as one of three finalists for the Air Force ‘Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System’ program, it hopes to provide an expendable, weaponized “flying Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaisance package on a Beyond Line-of-Sight target”.
This ISRBLOSLMAMS proves without a doubt that, 1) the military will always give us convenient, catchy acronyms and, 2) the kill streak RCXD really isn’t so far fetched after all. Judging by this video (and despite an unfortunate script barely worthy of a Casper van Dien movie) we really want to play with one.
The Switchblade can be remotely piloted or autonomous using powered flight or glide. It’s got a real-time video feed, GPS coordination and weighs (with launcher) just six pounds. The designers intend for it to be carried by a single soldier, which seems pretty cool unless you’re the poor bastard that has to add six pounds to his ruck—though to be fair that’s lighter than some snivel kit and less cumbersome than an AT4. Official releases say it flies below 500’ with a max altitude of 15,000’. We were unable to locate definite word on whether it can be recovered or if the ordnance has to be expended once it’s launched, but we’ve got a message in asking that very thing. (If it can, we see this as a source of endless amusement for grunts that get hold of one).
Jokes aside, the battlefield advantages are obvious. One wonders what the cost might be, but if it saves lives and kills insurgents (in what’s frankly a pretty surgical fashion for high explosive) then it certainly seems worth it. Anticipating a TIC on a convoy, or patrolling up a nasty canyon in Afghanistan? Put this thing up and let it fly local CAS—bet you at least some of the time it actually draws fire itself.
Tell you what we’d really like to see? A Combat Hunter or tracking team using this on a follow-up.