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AeroVironment received additional funding of USD 64.6 M (EUR 58.66 M) on 24 March 2023 from the US Army Tactical Aviation and Ground Munitions (TAGM) project office for the procurement of Switchblade 300 loitering munitions, the company announced on 26 April.

This latest contract includes Foreign Military Sales (FMS) of Switchblade 300 for the first time to France and another allied nation, AeroVironment noted, expanding Switchblade’s footprint internationally.

The contract increases the total funded amount of Switchblade systems under the original US Army contract to USD231.3 M. The contract will be managed by the US Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, and the systems are scheduled to be delivered by July 2024.

“AeroVironment’s combat-proven Switchblade 300 loitering munitions have been deployed by the US Army for more than a decade and are currently providing real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and precision strike support on battlefields in Ukraine,” the company stated in a press release. “Ideal for use against beyond-line-of-sight targets, Switchblade systems were approved by the US government for use by Ukraine and additional nations after the start of the Russia-Ukraine war in 2022.”

“Switchblade 300 continues to be a critical weapon in the armed forces of Ukraine’s unmanned systems arsenal,” Brett Hush, AeroVironment’s vice president and product line general manager for Tactical Missile Systems, was quoted as saying in a company press release. “This new contract further demonstrates the global demand for production-ready, combat-proven Switchblade 300 missile systems. We’re honoured that Switchblade 300 continues to support the US military and our allies.”

France has become a new customer for AeroVironment’s Switchblade 300 loitering munition. (Photo: AeroVironment)

AeroVironment unveiled the latest version of its Switchblade 300 – the Block 20 version – on 28 March. Weighing just under 2.26 kg, the Switchblade 300 Block 20 is a backpackable, electrically powered loitering munition that can be deployed in less than two minutes and tube-launched by an individual operator to give infantry squads an organic ISR and attack capability. Real-time video, GPS co-ordinates, and wave-off capabilities provide the operator with confidence in attacking key targets with precision while minimising collateral damage.

The Block 20 features a longer endurance than the previous Block 10C (the system’s endurance is now 20+ minutes); an improved, encrypted digital datalink (DDL) range; and a new electro-optic/infra-red panning camera suite. An AeroVironment spokesperson confirmed to ESD on 4 April that the Ukrainian military’s use of Switchblade systems donated by the United States for use against invading Russian forces has informed the development of the Switchblade 300 Block 20.

The AeroVironment spokesperson told ESD that, with Switchblade Block 10C production now complete, any future Switchblade orders will be for Block 20 units, which the company expects to field by the first quarter of 2024.

Peter Felstead