Killer ‘switchblade’ drones added to ADF arsenal

Lethal drones that crash kamikaze-like into the enemy will be used by the nation’s elite soldiers under plans to boost the Australian Defence Force’s arsenal of lethal unmanned capabilities.

A soldier launches a AeroVironment Switchblade300 armed warhead drone. Photo: AeroVironment/AAP

A soldier launches a AeroVironment Switchblade300 armed warhead drone. Photo: AeroVironment/AAP

The Albanese government will announce on Monday it has acquired the loitering munition Switchblade 300, for an amount which it said cannot be disclosed for strategic reasons.

The drones will be delivered later this year with the saying it would also not disclose the number of Switchblade 300s it was buying.

Unlike other traditional drones, which are used for reconnaissance, loitering munitions are aerial weapons designed to stay around the area of a target before attacking it directly by crashing into it and exploding.

They are carried in a backpack before being fired into the air where the wings flick out, hence the name switchblade.

A range of drones, including loitering munitions, have proven to be potent weapons for picking off soldiers, tanks and other military assets by the Ukrainian forces trying to repel the Russian invasion.

The United States Government has delivered hundreds to the Ukrainian forces.

Overseas news sites report that the US government paid up to US$US80,000 ($A118,885) for each of their Switchblade 300 drones.

Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy said a defence review had made clear that new technology and “asymmetric advantage” were important priorities in modern warfare.

“Any suggestion that we are not investing in drones is factually incorrect,” he said.

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“The numbers speak for themselves.

“The Albanese government, in fact, is investing more than $10 billion on drones, including at least $4.3 billion on uncrewed aerial systems.”

The government’s Defence Strategic Review, released in April last year, said the ADF needed to develop “asymmetric advantages” to ensure Australia maintained parity or an edge in critical military technology areas.

Of the more than 20 drone systems already in use by the defence force, several are capable of being armed.

One of the existing models in service, Anduril’s Altius 600, is understood to have that ability.

The government is set to make a further announcement in the coming weeks for the acquisition of more unmanned aerial systems.

Defence currently operates about 760 uncrewed aerial systems.


Topics: Drones
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