AeroVironment Unveils Switchblade 600 Loitering Missile

Switchblade 600
Credit: AeroVironment

AeroVironment has unveiled a tube-launched loitering missile with an armor-piercing warhead and nearly three times the endurance of the original, man-portable Switchblade 300. 

The new Switchblade 600 also is designed to be man-portable, while a “six-pack,” vehicle-mounted version will be offered for the U.S. Marine Corps. The Marines have a pending request for proposals for an Organic Precision Fires-Mounted (OPF-M) system, said Brett Hush, senior general manager of AeroVironment’s Tactical Missile Systems. 

The Marines plan to conduct a fly-off of candidate OPF-M systems in January, then select a single supplier, Hush said. OPF-M will be added to the Marines’ Light Armored Vehicles, providing a long-range precision fires capability against targets up to 40 km away.

“We pioneered this category, and we continue to develop and introduce new capabilities,” said Wahid Nawabi, AeroVironment CEO. 

The Switchblade 300 entered service in 2011 with the Army as essentially a flying, precision-guided grenade. The tube-launched missile is equipped with electro-optic and infrared cameras and an anti-personnel warhead. Once airborne, an operator on the ground can use the live video feed to identify and guide the missile to the target. The battery-operated Switchblade 300 comes with an endurance of 15 min. 

The Switchblade 600 is designed to fly about 40 km in 20 min., then loiter in the target area for another 20 min., said Todd Hanning, AeroVironment’s product line manager for Tactical Missile Systems. The missile is fielded now with an anti-armor warhead, but it is capable in the future of carrying other payloads, such as an anti-radiation capability, Hanning said. 

So far, AeroVironment has performed 60 test flights of the Switchblade 600 against fixed and moving targets, Hush said. The test flights have all been ground-launched, but the Switchblade 600 also is designed for air- and surface launch, he said. 

The current design of the Switchblade 600 does not make it a recoverable system, but AeroVironment has launched a project to add that capability to the missile in the future, Hush said.

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.


1 Comment
Commenting on the "recoverable" capability: I discussed this with an operator some years ago, and his comment was, "If I launch a munition, I sure as hell don't want it coming back!"