Drone warfare in Ukraine: Switchblade 'buzzing bee' drones vs Russia's Orlan-10

Updated: Mar 18, 2022, 05:15 PM(IST)

The US-built 'Switchblades' are also called Kamikaze drones. There are two variants of the  Switchblade drones – Switchblade 300 and Switchblade 60. Ukraine's Army will operate the deadly Switchblades against Russia.

Switchblade: Kamikaze drones

Amid Ukraine's stiff resistance against Russian forces, the US government announced it would be providing $800 million worth of arms to fight the war.

Apart from the Stingers and other missiles, the Biden administration would be sending hundred Switchblade loitering munitions to Ukraine.

The "Switchblades" are also called Kamikaze drones. There are two variants of the  Switchblade drones – Switchblade 300 and Switchblade 60.

(Photo Courtesy: Aerovironmentinc: Instagram)


Switchblade 300 for Ukraine's Army

The Switchblade 300 is considered an ideal "loitering missile" for use against beyond-line-of-sight targets. It is used by mobile forces which is what the Ukraine Army is currently fighting on several fronts. It can be rapidly deployed on air, land and sea platforms.

Switchblade 300 also relays real-time GPS coordinates and video for precise targeting. The Switchblade sensor-to-shooter (S2S) combines ISR capabilities with small unmanned aircraft systems for precision strike capabilities.

Clearly, the new blades meant of the Ukraine Army can strike and destroy any Russian target as it defends its territory against an overwhelming force.

(Photo Courtesy: Aerovironmentinc: Instagram)



Switchblade: Buzzing bee

The software of the Switchblade targets coordinates through machine-to-machine communication which reduces engagement timelines. The software provides Switchblade operators with real-time video downlinks for a centralised view of the area of operation.

It has a range of 10km with an endurance time of 15 minutes. It carries 2.5kg which includes a payload, launcher and transport bag and fits inside a rucksack.

It can cruise at 63 mph and can dash at 100 mph. It is also popularly known as an "angry bird" or a "buzzing bee".

(Photo Courtesy: Aerovironmentinc: Instagram)


Russian Orlan-10 drones

As Ukraine's forces continue to resist Russia over three weeks into the war, the Russian ministry of defence had released a video which reportedly showed Orlan-10 UAV Krasnopol laser-guided artillery strikes in Kyiv Oblast.

Reports also claimed Russia may be using "suicide drones" or "loitering munition" in the Ukraine war.

The Zala KYB UAV "loitering munition" is designed to take out remote ground targets with ease and can hit targets with high precision.


Orlan-10 UAV

The Orlan-10 UAV is a medium-range, multi-purpose unmanned aerial vehicle which conducts aerial reconnaissance and electronic warfare. It is usually used in groups by the Russian army as it strikes enemy targets.

The Orlan-10 has multiple cameras including thermal imaging camera and radio transmitter and can offer real-time intelligence on the ground with 3D maps. The production of Orlan-10 had started in 2010

The Russian forces had conducted drills of the Orlan-10 in the Kemerovo region in southwestern Siberia last year.


Ukraine's Punisher drone

As the war with Russia continues to drag on, Ukraine has deployed the lethal Punisher drones which has carried out several successful missions.

It can reportedly fly upto 30 miles inside enemy territory and has been used to disrupt Russia's supply lines blasting the long convoys and targeting the ammunition dumps.

The drones fly almost undetected with a wingspan of 7.5 feet and can fly at a height of 1,300 feet. The flight path of the "Punisher" is automatic and it feeds off its companion drone called the "Spectre" which helps in reconnaissance and identifying targets.

The drone is reportedly designed by a company called UA Dynamics comprising of veterans who fought in the Crimea conflict against Russia in 2014.


Turkish combat drones in Ukraine war

The pride of Ankara, Turkish combat drones were quickly put into action by Ukraine following Russia's invasion. 

But while they have proved their worth in several recent conflicts -- from Syria to Libya to Nagorno-Karabakh -- the terrain this time is less favourable, experts say. 

Kyiv has around 20 Bayraktar TB2 drones, built by the Turkish military. 

Relatively cheap and effective, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been their number one salesman, securing deals with around 15 countries around the world. 


Drones target Russian columns

The Ukrainian ambassador in Ankara has regularly tweeted images of explosions attributed to the drones, targeting Russian columns and artillery, with accompanying phrases like: "#c -- "Mashallah (God be praised)" and strings of joyous emojis. 

"These TB2 strikes are, in comparison to ground combat, relatively small in number, but important for Ukrainian morale precisely because it shows Russia does not control the skies," said Aaron Stein, of the Foreign Policy Research Institute.


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