AeroVironment Aims To Disrupt Industry With New Loitering Missile

Californian company AeroVironment
AVAV
aims to disrupt the multibillion-dollar tactical missile industry with its new SwitchBlade 600 loitering missile. Such missiles, sometimes termed kamikaze drones, are propeller-driven, and fly slower but with greater endurance than traditional missiles. Unlike traditional missiles, they can cruise over the battlefield for an extended period looking for targets; if a target proves to be invalid when seen at close range, they can be waved off and go hunting for another. AeronVironment’s small SwitchBlade has proved highly effective in Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Now the company is upsizing with a bigger, faster, and more powerful version able to take on a wider set of targets at longer range.

AeroVironment’s existing SwitchBlade loitering missile is one of the U.S. military’s best-kept secrets. It’s a five-pound, tube-launched weapon that can locate, identify, and destroy a target from several miles away while the operator remains securely behind cover, watching via video feed. Thousands have been used, often against “high-value targets” (aka insurgent leadership) but few details have ever been released. The small warhead delivers a focused blast of shrapnel which can take out a group of individuals or a pickup truck; it can dive vertically to hit targets in trenches or foxholes. But the generally secret nature of the operations it is used in means there are more pictures circulating even of the shadowy six-bladed Hellfire R9X ‘Ninja missile’ than SwitchBlade.

The existing SwitchBlade now becomes the SwitchBlade 300, with the unveiling of the bigger SwitchBlade 600. This is a 50-pound weapon, launched from a ground vehicle, drone or helicopter, with a forty-minute flight time and a top speed of 115 mph. It can travel 50