Watch the US-made Switchblade drone suicide attacks on a Russian tank

It likely resulted in a mission kill.
Ameya Paleja
A Switchblade drone being launchedAerovironment

Ukrainian Special Operations Forces have released the footage of a Switchblade drone taking on a Russian tank. According to the report from The Drive, the tank and its crew's status remains unknown. 

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has shown us a glimpse of what warfare in the future will be like. In addition to carrying out reconnaissance and surveillance tasks, drones have also brought us footage of artillery attacks and spurred the use of laser weapons to counter them. 

The War of Drones?

In the early days of the conflict, we reported how small Ukrainian drones were being used to destroy Russian supply lines. These drones were built by a company that saw Russian aggression in Crimea in 2014 and has used technology to thwart another round of attacks on Ukrainian territory. 

Russia has also used its drones in its aggressive efforts. Reports that have emerged so far show Russian drones made using obsolete tech. This is quite alarming considering that Russia is counted among the top military suppliers and Russian media claims that the military is working on capabilities like a heavy stealth drone

As part of its commitment to the Ukrainian cause, the U.S. government had promised to provide Switchblade drones with The Drive claiming that more than 700 such drones have already been supplied to Ukrainian forces. While details of the ongoing conflict in the east are scarce, the escalation of political tensions between the two nations has seen a lot of drone warfare. 

How does the Switchblade drone work?

Developed by California-based defense manufacturer AeroVironment, the Switchblade is a loitering munition. This new class of weapons can be deployed at will but only engaged when the target is located.

In the case of the Switchblade, the weapon is equipped with GPS-tracking features. The weapon is relatively small and has an endurance of barely 10 minutes. However, the developers of the weapon have turned this into an advantage by making it reusable. 

Launched from a tube-like ground control system, the Switchblade drone is fired like a mortar but then springs open its wings. A propeller then guides its flight in the direction the operator wants it to go. Its location is beamed back to the operator via a video feed that is visible on the operator's hand-control unit. 

It is this video feed that the Ukrainian Special Operations Forces have shared on the Facebook page. As seen in the video, the munition is loitering above the ground and spots a Russian T-72 tank sitting in the middle of the field, its crew outside the safety provided by the tank's armor. 

The video feed blacks out as the drone gets closer to the tank. This is because, the drone has moved from its loitering mode to an attack mode, where the drone's autopilot takes over and moves towards the target and uses its warhead. 

Depending on the version of the Switchblade used, the warhead could be a 40 mm grenade or perhaps even a bigger explosive. Nevertheless, it would not take out the tank entirely but could cause enough damage to render it useless for the mission it was on.