AeroVironment and Orbital ATK announced the completion of development of a block upgrade for the Switchblade tactical missile system, improving the weapon’s datalink with a new, encrypted digital data-link. AeroVironment has teamed with Orbital ATK to produce the advanced warhead for the weapon.
Designated SwitchBlade Block 10C, the improved tactical missile system that is already fielded by the US Army has received a Digital Data Link (DDL), to provide a stable and secure encrypted communication link which is less susceptible to interception and exploitation by the enemy. DDL also makes more efficient use of existing electromagnetic spectrum resources. “Switchblade Block 10C will increase the capabilities of the warfighter in the field through encrypted operation and improved Army-wide frequency de-confliction and management.” said Bill Nichols of the U.S. Army PEO Missiles and Space Close Combat Weapons Systems (CCWS) Program office, which also manages Switchblade.
The DDL enables concurrent operation of multiple Switchblade systems in the same vicinity, without risking signal conflict. According to the developer, it can also extend operational range by using another DDL arbiter, such as AeroVironment’s Puma AE unmanned aircraft system (UAS). Further integration between the two systems is facilitated using automatic communication of mission plans from such unmanned aircraft system to a Switchblade, via Aerovironments’ ‘sensor to shooter’ operations.
The Switchblade tactical missile system, developed and produced by AeroVironment, enables the infantry squad with increased lethality, reach and force protection through its rapid deployment, direct fire and collateral damage avoidance capabilities. Switchblade was first fielded in 2011 under a series of U.S. Army urgent needs requiring a portable weapons system capable of engaging targets beyond line of sight, in defilade, on rooftops, fleeting targets, those in concealed locations and in complex areas of operation requiring minimal collateral damage for the dismounted operator. Switchblade provides day and night operation, loitering capability and wave off to minimize collateral damage. Since the initial 2011 award, AeroVironment has produced more than 1,500 Switchblade missile bodies for various customers in both integrated warhead and training configurations.