QUORA: Is the switchblade drones Biden's sending a game changer? Are al
From (David P.)@21:1/5 to All on Wed Apr 6 23:04:38 2022
QUORA: Is the switchblade drones Biden's sending a game changer?
Are all tanks at risk for Russia?
by Matt LeBaron, Been there, done that, Updated Sunday
Yes, the Switchblade drones are a game changer and a huge
threat to tanks, though not for the reason you might imagine.
First, for a bit of background, the US has announced that it
has sent 100 Switchblade systems to Ukraine as part of its
recent $800MM defense package. Reports indicate these are
Switchblade 300s and that each system consists of 10 munitions
(for a total of 1000 munitions) and a control system.
The Switchblade 300 is the original anti-personnel variant,
with a very small warhead. It is essentially a grenade-tipped
drone, though the grenade focuses its blast straight ahead,
instead of in all directions. This is because the system was
originally intended to be able to take out a single soft target
- a person, car, or truck - while causing minimal collateral damage.
The Switchblade 300 (and its larger Switchblade 600 anti-armor
version) are single-use weapons, often referred to as “loitering munitions” rather than drones.
So, why are these a game changer and why are all Russian tanks at risk?
Well, we've learned that the Achilles heel for the Russian invasion
is its inability to resupply its forces. Russian soldiers have
limited food and Russian tanks, APCs, and IFVs have limited fuel.
The Switchblade 300 is the perfect weapon to leverage this existing
weakness and eliminate the ability of the Russian forces to engage
Given the accuracy of these devices, a single Ukrainian soldier can
launch a Switchblade 300 and control it as a loitering munition for
about 15 minutes, flying it around 6 miles before guiding it straight
down into its target. The payload is small, about the size of a hand
grenade, so not enough to penetrate a main battle tank…but plenty to
take out a soft-skinned vehicle like a truck.
Now, imagine you are a Russian conscript driving a truck full of
artillery shells to the front line, part of a small convoy of
10 trucks carrying fuel and ammunition. As you approach your drop
off area, something strikes the front of the ammo truck ahead of
you and the cabin explodes. The ammo itself thankfully doesn’t go up,
but the truck is wrecked.
Driving slowly past the wreckage you look in to see that a shell
apparently crashed through the driver’s windshield and exploded.
However, it couldn’t have been a Bayraktar TB2 drone, because that
65kg warhead would have destroyed the truck entirely. In this case,
just the driver was killed and the truck incapacitated. It must have
been a one-in-a-million shot of something smaller. Such are the
chances of war.
However, two minutes later, as you pull up to the position you’re resupplying, one of the fuel trucks in your convoy goes up in a
huge ball of flame. You throw yourself out of your truck and into
a ditch. Clearly this must be artillery fire and you’ve been trained
to get down.
But now you can hear it - the high-pitched whine of a drone. Lying
on your back you look up and see what looks like a small toy airplane
circling slowly several hundred feet above your position, just waiting.
It’s far too small for a SAM to hit, so a couple of soldiers begin
firing their AKs at it, but it’s too small to hit at that range.
Someone in charge begins yelling at you and the other drivers to
start unloading your shells, hooking fuel trucks up to vehicles,
etc. One of the other drivers gets up from his ditch, runs out to
his truck, and opens the back of it. You watch in horror as the
drone dips down and flings itself at that truck, racing downward
and striking it in less than 10 seconds, before even a single box
of shells can be removed.
The small initial explosion is immediately followed by a series
of huge blasts as the shells detonate. A third driver has been
killed and his payload destroyed.
A soldier yells at you to start unloading your truck. You hear
yourself yelling back that you’ll do it only if he does it together
with you. There’s a moment’s pause as you look at each other before
he lowers and shakes his head, cursing.
With the fuel truck still burning, and ammo still popping off,
at this point the only thing that you and those around you care
about is getting out of there. Leaving behind the slow trucks with
their deadly payload, you pile into a small car with a few of your
fellow soldiers and hit the gas, heading back up the road you came,
terrified that you think you hear a high-pitched whine….
So, yes, in sufficient quantities I believe the Switchblade 300 is
an absolute game changer in the Ukrainian war. It essentially allows
a single Ukrainian soldier to precisely kill a soft-skinned vehicle
(and/or a Russian soldier) from about 6 miles away every 30 minutes
While the success rate of the drone is unknown, even if it is just
50% then the UAF could take out 500 supply vehicles with Switchblades
in just a few days. These weapons will also have a devastating impact
to the morale of the Russian army and as a result might even cripple
the resupply effort without having to kill all the vehicles.
I expect Switchblade Operator to become a favorite role of Ukrainian
soldiers, similar to the role of Bayraktar Drone Pilot. I also expect
Ukraine will be asking the US for another batch of 1000 munitions
every few days until the conflict is over. I’m not sure what the
current US stockpiles look like, or how quickly they can be manufactured,
but I wouldn’t bet against either US stockpiles or manufacturing.