Australian military to buy Switchblade 300 suicide drones being used by Ukrainian forces

A lightweight US-made drone that carries an explosive payload and fits in a backpack will soon enter service with the Australian Defence Force (ADF), following its successful use on the battlefield in Europe.

On Monday the Albanese government will announce it’s acquiring the “Switchblade 300”, a precision loitering munition with a range of around 10 kilometres that’s being operated by Ukrainian soldiers in their fight against invading Russian forces.

According to US manufacturer AeroVironment, the portable device weighs only a few kilograms and uses a strike missile capable of hitting beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) enemy targets.

On its website the company boasts the latest version of its product is a “lightweight, miniature, precision-guided lethal missile” and can be deployed in less than two minutes via tube-launch from land, sea, or mobile platforms providing greater mission flexibility.

The growing importance of lethal drone warfare has been highlighted in the war in Ukraine where both sides have demonstrated effective use of unmanned aerial systems, prompting criticism of the ADF’s limited current capability in the area. 

At present the ADF operates around 760 unmanned aerial systems mainly for surveillance missions, with some models capable of being armed. But the Defence department is also trialling low-cost, expendable systems which can be produced in vast numbers.

Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy insists the government is taking action to enhance the ADF’s use of drones, rejecting suggestions it has not invested in the deadly technology.

“With autonomous weapon systems increasingly prevalent, the Defence Strategic Review made clear that new technology and asymmetric advantage are important priorities.”

“The Albanese Government, in fact, is investing more than $10 billion on drones, including at least $4.3 billion on uncrewed aerial systems,” Mr Conroy said in a statement.

Details of how many of the US drones Australia will purchase and at what cost remains unknown, although the Switchblade 300 is believed to cost between about $90,000 and $120,000.

Earlier this year the ABC revealed a locally made and electrically powered loitering munition will also soon be brought into service by the Australian Army, although defence sources say it’s unlikely to be before the arrival of the Switchblade 300. 

Just last week Washington approved the sale of the Switchblade 300 to Taiwan’s military in an almost $90 million deal, after previously agreeing to provide the weapon for use by Ukraine, France, the UK and other allies following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

© 2024, GDC. © GDC and Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.