From scout to kamikaze: what drones the US sends to the Ukrainian army

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From scout to kamikaze: what drones the US sends to the Ukrainian army
From scout to kamikaze: what drones the US sends to the Ukrainian army
21 April, 12:03ArmyPhoto: Соцсети
Joe Biden announced an additional $800 million in funding for arms supplies to Ukraine, which includes drones from AeroVironment, a company specializing in the design and manufacture of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)

Alexander Sychev

Three products of the company were included in the list at once. By the end of May, AeroVironment has pledged to produce a batch of RQ-20 Puma UAVs for Ukraine in the amount of almost $20 million. How much the Pentagon will have to pay for the Switchblade loitering ammunition and a hundred Quantix Recon reconnaissance drones is not reported.

In addition to Switchblade, the other two drones are systems designed for aerial photography. For example, the Quantix Recon is a lightweight carbon fiber machine. It is a mixture of a quadrocopter with an airplane. The wingspan reaches one meter. At the ends there are two propellers. The Quantix takes off and lands like a quadcopter, and in the air it turns horizontally and flies like an airplane due to the lift of the wing.

The advantage of the system is simplicity. Quantix was created for farmers. And people are simple - they don’t need any abstruse high-tech. Therefore, the drone only needs to be launched, and then it flies back and forth according to a given algorithm within 1.6 square kilometers for 45 minutes.

AeroVironment Executive Director Wahid Nawabi, telling reporters about the upcoming deliveries to Ukraine, said that Quantix is not afraid of radio frequency interference. It is, indeed, almost true. The device does not support any communication with the operator. It simply flies around a given square within its technical capabilities and, when the battery runs out, returns to its starting point. But like any electronics, it can be destroyed by powerful electromagnetic radiation.

A highly sensitive 18 megapixel camera allows you to take high-quality digital images that are stored in a flash drive. Upon the return of the drone, the operator pulls it out and looks at the pictures on the computer.

Another reconnaissance aircraft from AeroVironment was created for the military. This is the RQ-20 Puma. It resembles an aircraft model that children and teenagers are fond of. It is launched from the hand and does not require a prepared landing site. It may even splash down.

The wingspan reaches 2.8 meters, the length of the fuselage is 1.4, and the weight is 6.1 kilograms. The aircraft can be accelerated to 83 kilometers per hour, but the cruising speed is 37 kilometers per hour. The flight radius is 15 kilometers at an altitude of 150 meters. Without recharging, it flies for about three hours.

It is planned to deliver a modified RQ-20A Puma AE to Ukraine. This model has the same set of electro-optical and infrared cameras, but a more powerful battery that will increase the flight time to 9 hours.

But Switchblade is a dangerous kamikaze drone. It is launched into the air from a ground installation using compressed gas. Reminds me of a mortar. After launching at a height of several meters, the electric motor is turned on, the wings and tail unit turn across the fuselage and lock up.

AeroVironment has developed two versions. The Switchblade-300 can hit targets up to 10 kilometers away. The length of the ammunition is 61 centimeters, and it weighs together with a carrying case and a launcher of 2.7 kilograms. The electric motor accelerates the ammunition to 157 kilometers per hour.

A color camera and GPS system help the operator to control the ammunition and direct it exactly to the target. In the air, it can last no more than 10 minutes. The power of the warhead is equivalent to a 40 mm grenade for an underbarrel grenade launcher. The drone can strike at light armored vehicles and enemy manpower.

The Switchblade-600 is bigger and more powerful. He weighs 23 kilograms. The battery charge is enough for 40 minutes of flight, and the total range is 80 kilometers. This loitering ammunition is armed with an anti-tank charge.

The Switchblade-300 and 600 control system is a touch screen tablet. Ammunition can be controlled manually or put on the machine. The communication system is protected by encrypted data transmission channels.

Initially, the Switchblade missiles were developed for the US Special Forces. The 300th model was shown in 2011, and the 600th in 2018. The weapons were first used in Afghanistan. Unlike most other weapons, the Switchblade can, if the situation changes, abort the mission and self-destruct. Return to the starting point, of course, is not provided. Which of the two versions will go to Ukraine is not reported.

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