The French Army has placed urgent orders to receive a undisclosed numbers of Switchblade Loitering Munitions from the United States. The French Army wants to induct these drones in the next six months, as part of a longer-term effort to field remotely operated weapon systems.
According to the Defence Ministry of France, the country is in the process of launching a Foreign Military Sales request “for the acquisition of Switchblade remote-operated ammunition. This launch aims to set up a first urgent capacity for the benefit of the French forces”.
The United States has earlier supplied the Switchblade drone to the Ukrainian Army, as part of the military aid being provided to the Ukrainian Forces to fight Russia.
AeroVironment, the manufacturer of the Switchblade drone declined to comment on the potential sale, but a company official said there has been “considerable interest” in the weapon from various militaries since the Defense Department announced plans to send it to Ukraine.
According to some reports published in Defense news, AeroVironment’s loitering munitions have been “out of public view for many years,” despite being used for more than a decade by the U.S. Army. “But with the crisis in Ukraine and the donation by the U.S. government of our loitering munitions to support the Ukrainians, many more people are aware of these systems.”
AeroVironment has provided the rucksack-portable, tube-launched Switchblade 300 loitering munition to the U.S. Army for more than 10 years, and the company introduced the larger 600 variant in 2020. The company also provides a nonlethal variant of the 300 system, dubbed Blackwing.
About the famous Switchblade Loitering Munitions
The Switchblade is a miniature loitering munition, designed and produced by AeroVironment, and used by several branches of the United States military. Small enough to fit in a backpack, the Switchblade launches from a tube, flies to the target area, and crashes into its target while detonating its explosive warhead. The name switchblade comes from the way the spring-loaded wings are folded up inside a tube and flip out once released.
Introduced in 2011, the original Switchblade was rebranded the Switchblade 300 after the much larger and very different Switchblade 600 anti-armor variant was unveiled in 2020. The Blackwing, an unarmed variant of the Switchblade 300 was released in 2015. More than 700 Switchblade 300 drones were sent to Ukraine by the United States as part of an arms package after the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The Switchblade is a combat tested weapon, the american army has used this drone in war in afghanistan, american-led intervention in Iraq (2014–2021), etc. The Switchblade 300 is designed as an expendable UAV to increase precision firepower for platoon-sized infantry units. It is 2 ft (610 mm) long and weighs 6 lb (2.7 kg) including the carrying case and launcher, making it small and light enough for one soldier to carry.
It can be controlled up to 10 km (6.2 mi). Its small size limits its endurance to 10 minutes. This makes it unsuited for scouting roles, but it is useful for inexpensively engaging long-range targets and assisting in relieving units pinned down by enemy fire. The Switchblade uses a color camera and GPS locating to identify, track, and engage targets, as well as being able to be pre-programmed on a collision course. Its warhead has an explosive charge equivalent to a 40mm grenade to destroy light armored vehicles and personnel. If a situation causes a strike to be called off, the operator can call off the Switchblade and re-target it.
Currently the Switchblade drone is being used by the armed forces of the United United States, United Kingdom and Ukrainian Armed Forces.