A Switchblade drone appears to have hit a Russian tank. The crew was operating the drone from a tower far from the attack site. The first video has surfaced on social media documenting the alleged use of a Switchblade drone in Ukraine. The "loitering munition" made in the US flies towards a Russian T-72 tank.
The video is transmitted via the color camera installed on the nose of the drone, and the data displayed by the sensors is in English. The video cuts off just before the impact. According to the description of the video, Ukrainian special forces carried out the attack. The Russian soldiers had drunk alcohol, it says.
Attack near the border with Russia
The authenticity of the file cannot be verified, but drone experts have no doubts about it. A Ukrainian weapons tracker website shows the remains of the drone destroyed in the attack, said to have been recovered by Russian forces. The find comes from the Kharkiv Oblast near the border with Russia.
Two months ago, following an act in Congress, the United States announced it would ship 100 Switchblade systems to Ukraine. However, it was unclear when these would arrive and be transferred to the combat area. According to its own statements, Russia has repeatedly bombed transports of western arms supplies. Corresponding attacks took place on the outskirts of the city of Lviv in western Ukraine.
"Irreparable damage" to the tank
It is also unclear which variant of the Switchblade was exported to Ukraine. The manufacturing company Aerovision offers them in the 300 and 600 versions. Only the larger drones are said to be able to penetrate armor.
The mission that is now documented is probably the smaller variant, which was not intended to attack the tank but its crew. It says so in the video description. The Switchblade 300's warhead carries an explosive charge equivalent to a 40mm shell.
A second drone films the tank, above which a jet of flame can be seen during the attack. However, the extent of the destruction cannot be seen in the video. In the last seconds of the video, it can be seen that the tank is under a power line. This was hit by the switchblade and not the tank. However, the caption states that the drone caused "irreparable damage" to the vehicle.
Drone or ammunition?
Launched from a tube using compressed air, the Switchblade then folds out pivoting wings in flight and is powered by a silent electric motor. Their range is around 10 kilometers.
As a "loitering munition," the Switchblade 300 can circle over the target for up to 15 minutes until the opportune moment to attack occurs. The Switchblade 600 has an endurance of 40 minutes and a range of over 90 km.
The aircraft is completely destroyed in the attack. That's why the switchblade is sometimes referred to as ammunition and not a drone. On the other hand, the fact that the operator of the switchblade can stop the attack at any time speaks for the classification as a drone.