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Strapping Wings to a Bomb — Why the US Military Is Switching to the Switchblade

Written by on Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Drone technology has advanced in leaps and bounds in the last decade or so. What started as a fairly uncommon type of aircraft has grown into a booming industry that supplies a wide array of specialized unmanned drones. They’ve become so popular that the government wanted to open up drones to private ownership, making them a perfect purchase for those of us who have a couple million bucks burning a hole in our pocket and a clinical case of paranoia.

Actually, drones are much more accessible than you’d think. Some of them, such as the new Switchblade, are even small enough to fit in your backpack. Weighing in at about 6 lb, Switchblades will be easier to carry around then most modern guns. And the name is aptly chosen — the Switchblade has a compact design that allows it to fit into a tube. Soldiers set up the tube and launch the drone pretty much the exact same way they would fire a mortar. The wings fold out once the drone is airborne (like the blades on a switchblade) and it takes to the sky.

Soldiers on the ground then pilot the device in exactly the same way that a pilot would operate any other drone. Switchblades come with a device that’s a bit like a specialized tablet. It has a screen and interface that shows what the Switchblade sees, allowing a soldier to survey the landscape and effortless pilot the device remotely. It’s easy to see why a device like this would be a gamechanger in warfare. It would give troops complete cheap cialis control over surveillance capabilities, and they could easily scout behind enemy lines without risking lives or needing to wait for air support to show up.

But rather than simply observing and reporting, the Switchblade has an ace up its sleeve that transforms it into a truly terrifying weapon. The operator can activate a tiny warhead on the front of the Switchblade, transforming the surveillance drone into a kamikaze missile with pinpoint accuracy. Defense analysts have been calling these mini drones “loitering munitions,” as they are quite literally bombs that hover over the battlefield until a pilot finds a target he likes.

In a way, this new drone system is almost too efficient, because it allows commanders on the field to cut through what would normally be the chain of command. The associate director of the Counter-terrorism and Human Rights Project at Columbia Law School, Naureen Shah, fears that these drones will give field commanders the ability and the power to use lethal force, a decision that was normally reserved for a team of military analysts and lawyers. Typically, air strikes need to make it through that legal filter before the jets take to the sky. Armed with a single Switchblade, troops on the ground might be able to take matters into their own hands.

Sure, that may be true, but the potential benefits of such an amazing aircraft seem to outweigh those concerns. The Switchblade has been widely tested by the US Army, the Marines, and the USAF. More than likely, the Switchblade and other unmanned aerial vehicles like it will be the wave of the future.

 

If you want advice about the world of military aviation, there’s no better people to turn to than men and women who have sat in the cockpit and flown some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. With over 50 current and ex-warfighters on call, Strike Fighter Consulting Inc. can give you access to up-to-date, first-hand technical and tactical expertise.

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