Both Russia and Ukraine are currently using loitering munition on the battlefield while Russia has homemade weapons, then Ukraine has US-backed drones. So which UAV is better?
A few days ago, the US announced to provide Ukraine with the suicide drone Phoenix Ghost, which is said to be an improved version, developed especially for Ukraine. Previously, the US provided Ukraine with the Switchblade suicide drone.
During the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the KUB-BLA suicide drone, equipped by the Russian Army, appeared in Ukraine. This means that many prowling UAVs will compete with each other on the battlefield.
In the early days of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, suicide drones did not appear; As the conflict continued, in mid-March, suicide UAVs began to be widely used. According to information published by the US military, 121 sets of Phoenix Ghost suicide drones will be supplied to Ukraine.
According to information, this suicide UAV, in terms of operation, is similar to the Switchblade that was given aid to Ukraine before; but the features are different and specially developed to meet the needs of Ukraine.
Pentagon spokesman Kirby added that the combination of Switchblade and Phoenix Ghost is very effective, when against different types of targets. The US military has so far not released information about the Phoenix Ghost UAV to the outside world.
However, according to the US’s development logic of suicide UAV technology, Phoenix Ghost will apply some technologies of Switchblade UAV; but to improve battery life and warhead power, so the size of the Phoenix Ghost will be larger, and possibly a suitable warhead to attack tanks.
Before supplying the Phoenix Ghost UAV, the US provided Ukraine with a series of Switchblade UAVs. On March 16, the White House announced that it would supply Ukraine with 100 Switchblade UAVs from its inventory.
At that time, the Switchblade 300 UAV was supplied in quantities of up to 400 units; Next, the US provided Ukraine with a Switchblade 600 version, with a stronger destructive power.
Switchblade is a type of suicide UAV (the US classed Switchblade as a loitering cruise missile, because it cannot be recovered), launched from the ground, and developed by the company AeroVironment since 2006. It is mainly used. to accurately attack fixed or moving targets within a certain range
Switchblade 300 is the first version, with 0.5 m long wings, when in the folded wing position, powered by electric motors, the whole weight weighs only 2.5 kg, and can be put in a backpack of soldiers in combat.
Switchblade 600 UAV is the latest version of the Switchblade family, officially launched in October 2020. Size and weight have increased significantly. Switchblade 600 weighs 23 kg, has a range of over 80 km, and has a battery life of 40 minutes, able to cope with targets such as tanks; destructive power equivalent to anti-tank missiles Javelin.
The Switchblade 600 UAV is equipped with a high-performance electro-optical/infrared balance sensor that enables precise flight control and provides ground forces with tactical reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition capabilities.
Its control tasks are completed by the operator on the mobile flat touch screen. Manually or automatically, operators can more easily plan and execute precise tasks.
With the fire control system software, the operator can complete the closed loop “touch-reconnaissance-attack” in a short time and without too much complexity; can also be used by those with little training.
On July 29, 2011, the US Army signed a contract worth $4.9 million with the National Aerospace Corporation, to supply an unspecified number of Switchblade suicide UAVs, to the Army. America used this weapon in the war in Afghanistan.
In May 2012, the US Marine Corps began ordering Switchblade UAVs. At the end of 2012, 75 Switchblades were delivered to US Army units in Afghanistan. According to information, the US Army has used more than 4,000 Switchblade UAVs in Afghanistan; but it did not change the battlefield situation.
Ukraine has made headlines with its Switchblade kamikaze drone supplied by the United States. Meanwhile, the Russians have their own loitering munition which is another weapon that can harass civilians in cities and even assassinate generals and other VIPs, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Of course, these threats could be idle chatter from the Russians, although the KUB-BLA suicide drone has its advantages in range and in firepower to make it a force on the battlefield.
The KUB-BLA has a 24-mile range with a speed of 80 miles per hour and a 2.2-pound warhead that shoots out metal balls to maim its target. It’s around three feet long and can stay in the air for 30-minutes. The drone can serve in intelligence collecting and reconnaissance roles if no target presents itself. But then it can quickly dive down to paydirt spraying metal throughout the kill zone.
In March, the Russians used the tactical drone in a neighborhood in Kyiv near government buildings. That got military observers wondering if this was a drone for targeted assassination of political figures and policymakers – especially top members of the Ukrainian defense ministry and its general military staff.
The Russians used it on human targets in Idlib, Syria so it is proven in its ability to attack specific people. The threat to the central government has been abated since the Russians have left Kyiv, but there are still local government leaders in the Donbas region that could be in danger from a suicide drone like the KUB-BLA.
The KUB-BLA is straightforward to use. It comes with a catapult launcher that thrusts it into the air. The suicide drone is also silent, an attribute that makes it more deadly. The design is simple with the propellor mounted in the rear.
One disadvantage of the KUB-BLA is that its targeting system makes it difficult to use against moving objects, but something stationary like a person sitting in a parked vehicle or at a desk in an office could be eliminated.