On 30 September, AeroVironment provided a virtual media briefing on its family of loitering munitions (LM) systems, with Brett Hush, Senior General Manager, Product Line Management for Tactical Missile Systems, offering an overarching overview of current and prospective customers’ requirements.
While rapidly deployable, multi-mission solutions were at the top of his list, he noted that end users’ increasingly complex mission statements include seeing first and striking first. “They also need larger munitions and payloads to be carried. They need innovative solutions that have the flexibility to integrate onto other platforms – sea, land and air,” he stated.
To highlight AV’s responsiveness to these and other challenges, the company then reminded webinar viewers of its legacy-era systems – all familiar to readers of MON. One product, BLACKWING, is a tube-launched UAS, delivering rapid response ISR products. While the system can be deployed from a submerged submarine in an underwater-to-air delivery canister, it can also be deployed from surface ships and ground vehicles. The system’s disparate capabilities ultimately allow it to “create its own network in the middle of the ocean, connecting surface ships to undersea vessels, whether they are manned or unmanned,” according to Hush.
Elsewhere, the company’s SWITCHBLADE 300 remains a lightweight (2.5kg) combat-proven, organic, beyond-line-of-sight, precision guided weapon, capable of operating in multiple warfare domains. Hush encouraged webinar participants “to think of SWITCHBLADE 300 as close air support in your rucksack.”
On the ‘new’ side of the ledger, Todd Hanning, Product Line Manager for Tactical Missile Systems, introduced SWITCHBLADE 600, declaring that “[…] bigger, faster and more effective in every way,” this is AV’s next generation of extended LM. He noted it “is an all-in-one, man-portable solution which includes everything required to successfully launch, track, fly and engage non-line-of-sight targets with lethal effects. It can be set up and operational in less than 10 minutes. Its lightweight, tube-launched system allows for the flexibility to be launched from air, ground or mobile platforms.”
SWITCHBLADE 600 has a high performance EO/IR gimbal, boasts precision flight controls to help provide over 40min endurance, a range of more than 40km and has a reported 150mph “rapid response” dash speed. Calling attention to its enhanced lethality, Hanning added “An onboard anti-armour warhead has the firepower to take out a armoured vehicles and entrenched soft targets, without the need for external ISR fires assets.”
AV is achieving a delicate balancing act while it further evolves the 600. While the company is dedicated to maintaining SWITCHBLADE 600 as a man-portable system, employed by one individual, the firm is continuing to improve the product’s state-of-the-art in terms of improved power systems, extended ranges and such. The platform’s test programme has included about 60 flights to date against stationary and moving targets. SWITCHBLADE 600 is competing in Phase 1 of the US Marine Corps Organic Precision Fires (OPF) programme and the company is also eyeing sales for the maritime- and air-launched environments.
Marty Kauchak reporting from New Orleans for MON