While traditional drones were mainly used for recreation or sometimes for surveillance or even planting drones, switchblade drones are being used as loitering munitions with the intention of causing huge damage to both civilians and any buildings.

When the Switchblade drone is launched, the retracted wings unfold- and it looks pretty much like a switchblade, which is what gives the switchblade its name.

Why Is It Called A Kamikaze Drone?

A switchblade drone aka kamikaze drone or suicide drone is a weapon, also called Russia’s nightmare has gained notoriety these days after the US decision to provide 100 of those to Ukraine as part of their military aid in the war against Russia.

Kamikaze, which literally means divine wind– was a term that came into style when Japanese pilots began flying on suicide missions against the Allied Powers in the final years of World War II. The switchblade drones are designed to be single-use meaning they are fitted with munitions and explode on contact.

Check out this video to see the kamikaze drone in action- though switchblade drones were conceived in 2011 to be used in Afghanistan, they have been getting lots of attention since the US decided to provide Ukraine with military reinforcements in the form of ballistic missiles.

How Does The Switchblade Drone Work?

The term Switchblade doesn’t really mean a new category of drones, it just denotes the brand of missiles made by Aerovironment which is a company that produces high-precision strike tactical missiles equipped with Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ICR) capabilities.

Normally, drones wouldn’t work outside the Line of Sight but Switchblade drones are designed to work Beyond Line Of Sight (BLOS). As such, a drone operator can remotely fly a switchblade drone from over 25 miles away.

switchblade 300 launch

The Switchblade drone launches into the air, unfolds its wings, and relays the visual information back to the operator by data link. These ‘drones’ carry explosives that detonate when it hits a physical target- so unlike a traditional drone that is built to be maneuvered and recovered even after accidents- the switchblade drones are built to engage targets and self-destruction.

It makes sense to call them missiles and the US also considers them as such. So far, there have been two Switchblade drones- the lighter Switchblade 300 that just weighs 6 pounds and a much larger 50-pound Switchblade 600 that can reach speeds of up to 115 mph which obviously does a lot more damage than the former lighter ballistic missile.

switchblade 600 drone

The Switchblade 600 is also equipped with javelin anti-armor warheads which can be used to swiftly engage tanks, artillery bases as well as both stationary and moving targets. It can easily penetrate tanks even if they have roof reaction armor.

After being launched, the Switchblade drones can loiter in the air for 20 – 40 minutes before hitting a target. When in mid-air, the switchblade drone is pretty hard to notice because of its small size, and this can prove to be valuable for taking out enemy forces from the frontlines.

The United States recently gave 100 switchblade drone systems to the Ukrainian military, and from what I have conjured up, these weren’t just 100 suicide drones. A switchblade drone system comes with a tablet and 10 or so drones, so the switchblade drones that Ukraine was provided were more like 1000.

The signals controlling the Switchblade drone, however, can be jammed. That’s going to be hard to do as these weapons are usually damaged after a collision and it would be hard to get one for research purposes.

Switchblade blackwing unarmed drone for surveillance

There is also a Blackwing variant which is a modification on the Switchblade 300 without explosives. The model has served the US Navy in Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR). It can also be launched from submarines and ships, or terrestrial vehicles which are pretty cool.

Closing Thoughts

Switchblade drones are loitering munitions that work as effective aerial weapons to take out enemy forces. These cannot be shot down, have virtually no chance of missing out on a locked target, are undetectable till impact, and are very cheap compared to ballistic missile alternatives.

For the average Joe, the typical drones are a great idea, and if you are thinking about buying one, check out our post on choosing the best drone on a budget.

I am not much into wars and sincerely hope any ongoing wars end peacefully. If you liked this post, please consider bookmarking our site – the shortcut’s Ctrl + D.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a switchblade drone do?

A switchblade drone carries a detonative that is triggered on impact with a target. These kamikaze drones or suicide drones are smaller than the usual missiles and are able to take out targets like armed tanks and artilleries swiftly.

How far can switchblade drones travel?

The switchblade drones can travel up to 50 meters over a period of 40 minutes- 20 minutes of loitering time after covering a distance of 25m in 20 minutes. The flight duration also depends on the payload these drones carry- and the Blackwing variant can fly a lot longer than the Switchblade 300 as it doesn’t carry explosives.

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