What are the ‘kamikaze’ Switchblade drones US is sending to Ukraine?

The weapons are meant to be flown close to targets and then detonated

Graig Graziosi
Wednesday 30 March 2022 21:08
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Related video: President Zelensky speaks about priorities for Russia-Ukraine talks

The US is sending what are colloquially called "kamikaze" drones to Ukraine to help them fight back the Russian invasion.

US officials approved a shipment of Switchblade drones for use by Ukrainian forces against Russia. The drones can be carried in a backpack and deployed by individual soldiers.

Military officials call the weapons "kamikaze drones" because they can flown directly into a target, after which it explodes. The term kamikaze refers to the tactic employed by Japanese pilots in World War II of loading up small planes with explosives and flying them directly into Allied warships.

There are two types of Switchblade drone, the 300 and 600 series. The 300 is intended for use against personnel, while the 600 is intended for use against tanks and armored vehicles. It is unclear which - or if both - are being sent to Ukraine.

Both variants are unmanned and seek out targets using onboard sensors and GPS technology.

“These were designed for U.S. Special Operations Command and are exactly the type of weapons systems that can have an immediate impact on the battlefield,” Mick Mulroy, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense, said.

Ukrainian firefighters extinguish a blaze at a warehouse after a bombing on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 17, 2022.

According to The New York Times, the drones are part the White House's latest $800m infusion of military aid into Ukraine. That aid includes 800 additional Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, 9,000 anti-tank weapons, 100 tactical drones, and small arms like machine guns and grenade launchers.

The latest allocation of military aid comes after a plea by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to Congress for additional help and support from the US.

US weapons, like the Javelin anti-tank weapon, have seen widespread use by Ukrainians defending against Russian tanks in the early days of the invasion.

The US and European supporter of Ukraine has thus far focused on sending equipment and small arms to Ukraine rather than larger offensive weapons like tanks, jets and helicopters, as those require more robust training and logistical support to deliver.

Mr Zelensky has asked for nations to send Ukraine additional MiG fighter jets, but has since stepped away from his request.

Ukrainian military servicemen fire salutes during the funeral of their comrades, Roman Rak and Mykola Mykytiuk, in Starychi, western Ukraine, Wednesday, March 16, 2022

He has also asked for a no-fly zone, but Joe Biden has been adamantly opposed to any situations that could put US forces in directly conflict with Russia.

In lieu of additional fighters, Ukraine has also request mobile air defense systems to defend against Russian aircraft that fly at high altitudes, like bombers.

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