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U.S. Drones for Ukraine Will Include Latest Tank Killers

U.S. Drones for Ukraine Will Include Latest Tank Killers
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Tuesday, 05 April, 2022, 19:30

The Pentagon plans to order and send to Ukraine 10 of the newest model Switchblade drones armed with tank-busting warheads in addition to previously announced deliveries of a less powerful version, according to two people familiar with the decision.

The new Switchblade-600 weapons are part of $300 million in lethal military assistance announced by the Pentagon Friday night that will be contracted directly from industry instead of drawn from existing stocks, according to the people, who asked not to identified discussing the plan.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday confirmed the tank-killing drones are part of the weaponry being sent to Ukraine.

The inventory of the latest round of weapons being sent to Kyiv includes “UAVs like the Switchblade UAV that is a higher level of technology but provides them additional capability to go after armor formations,” Austin said, using an acronym for unmanned aerial vehicle.

The White House said on March 16 that it was supplying 100 Switchblade drones as part of a $800 million package of weapons and gear taken from U.S. inventories. But those systems are the “series 300” versions: 3.3-pound (2.5kg) drones designed to attack personnel and light vehicles. They can fly about six miles (10 kilometers) and loiter over a target roughly 15 minutes, according to a fact sheet produced by the manufacturer, AeroVironment Inc.
The new 50-pound model, produced by the Simi Valley, California-based company can fly more than 24 miles (39 kilometers) and loiter 40 minutes before attacking with an anti-armor warhead. The drone operator uses a tablet-based touchscreen fire-control system with the option to pilot the loitering missile manually.