AeroVironment announced today the receipt of a contract for its new Switchblade 600 loitering missile. The order was received from the Special Operations Command which already uses the smaller Switchblade 300 loitering weapon. Unveiled at a virtual press conference in October 2020, Switchblade 600 is a scaled-up variant of the Switchblade 300 miniature loitering weapon. Switchblade is also expected to be one of the contenders for the US Marine Corps’ Organic Precision Fires-Mounted (O-PFM) weapon system.

The recent order by the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) allocates $26 million for the delivery of weapons and their integration of the new weapon on specialized maritime platforms operated by US Special Operations Forces. Completion is expected by the end of 2022.

“Our team worked closely with our customers to develop Switchblade 600, a loitering missile system that addresses the increasingly complex needs and mission requirements of counterinsurgency operations and those against peer and near-peer adversaries,” said Brett Hush, AeroVironment vice president and product line general manager for tactical missile systems. “Integrating Switchblade 600 into combat platforms, such as the USSOCOM’s specialized maritime vessels, enhances force overmatch, minimizes warfighter exposure to enemy direct and indirect fires, and accelerates the maturation of this innovative solution.”

Switchblade 600

This all-in-one, man-portable, 50-pound (22.7 kilograms) solution includes everything needed to launch, fly, track and engage non-line-of-sight targets with lethal effects and can be set up and operational in less than 10 minutes. Switchblade 600 deploys from the launch tube in which it is transported to allow the flexibility for ground, air, or vehicle platform launches at extended stand-off range. This provides operators with superior force overmatch while minimizing exposure to direct or indirect enemy fires. With a 115 mph dash speed and on-board anti-armor warhead, Switchblade 600 has the firepower to engage and prosecute hardened static and moving light armored vehicles from multiple angles with precisely localized effects, while minimizing collateral damage.

Equipped with a high-performance EO/IR gimbaled sensor suite, precision flight control, and more than 40 minutes of flight time, Switchblade 600 delivers unprecedented tactical reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA).

This allows Switchblade 600 to transit up to 50 miles (80 kilometers) to a target area before conducting multiple confirmatory orbits, and engage in target prosecution – without the need for external ISR or fire assets. Should non-combatants be observed within the proximity of the target, Switchblade’s patented “wave-off” feature and recommit capability allows operators to abort the mission at any time, and then re-engage either the same or other targets multiple times based on operator command.

Mission control is conducted with a touchscreen, tablet-based Fire Control System (FCS) with tap-to-target guidance and the option to pilot the loitering missile manually or autonomously. Combined with its built-in mission planner and training simulator, the FCS provides operators with an intuitive platform to easily plan and execute missions precisely, while reducing cognitive load.

The system employs AES 256 digital encryption and SAASM GPS to provide the security, resilient communications, and signal integrity necessary to defend against electronic warfare capabilities employed by peer and near-peer adversaries in contested environments.

Loitering weapons are becoming a big business for Aerovironment. Earlier this month the U.S. Army has exercised an option on its Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile Systems (LMAMS) contract for additional Switchblade® 300 tactical missile systems for the Army and for export to an allied nation. This contract option worth nearly $50 increases the total value of the LMAMS contract to $122 million. Delivery will take place over a two-year period. In addition, the company also reported receiving a $13 million contract order to support the LMAMS in service. This contract has a total potential value of more than $40 million over three years. “The award for contractor logistics support approved through Joint Urgent Operational Needs Statement, reflecting high priority requirement and strong user demand from the frontline,” Hush added.