Switchblade loitering munition

AeroVironment has been awarded a contract to continue providing Switchblade loitering munition support services to the US Army Close Combat Weapons Systems, Program Executive Office Missiles and Space.

The $5.1m contract extension is part of the existing contract, involving the delivery of the operational Switchblade system, along with engineering services and operator training, and follows an initial $4.9m order secured by the company in September 2011.

Under the new contract, the company will work in collaboration with its munition subcontractor, Atk, to manufacture and deliver the systems to the army.

AeroVironment senior vice president and Unmanned Aircraft Systems business segment general manager, Roy Minson, said the contract represents another important step toward the broader adoption of Switchblade by the military.

Commenting on the device, ATK Aerospace Systems Advanced Systems vice president and general manager, Mark Messick, said the Switchblade provides the soldiers with an ability to quickly and accurately respond to attacks with minimum collateral damage.

"With Switchblade, our troops on the ground are safer, more efficient and more effective," said Messick.

The Switchblade is a tactical armed, remotely-piloted or autonomously launched unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), designed to provide the soldier with a back-packable, non-line-of-sight precision strike capability from stand-off ranges.

The UAV features an intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance package and also supports beyond-line-of-sight operations.

With an operational altitude of less than 500ft, the UAV wirelessly transmits real-time video information of the target to the small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) ground control unit operator, which in turn, arms the air vehicle to engage and destroy the target.

The prototype Switchblade system had received safety confirmation and completed military utility assessment with the US Army in 2010.

Image: A soldier prepares to launch Switchblade loitering munition. Photo: courtesy of AeroVironment.