Apr 22, 2022
Switchblade Drone Maker in Direct Talks With Ukraine Over Sales
(Bloomberg) -- The maker of the Switchblade dive-bombing drone the U.S. is sending Ukraine to fight Russia is in direct talks with the government in Kyiv over the possibility of additional sales, but it wants Pentagon help overcoming supply chain problems, according to its chief executive officer.
“It’s been a very, very effective tool,” AeroVironment Inc. CEO Wahid Nawabi said in an interview Friday about the two types of drones being shipped to Ukraine. He added that the company is “actively pursuing more sales to the U.S. military” as well as Ukraine.
But the Simi Valley, California-based company wants the Pentagon to give it a designation -- known as “DO” -- for future Switchblade and other systems that will give it a higher priority in the supply-chain for critical components like microprocessors, he said.
“Supply-chain is a bottleneck,” Nawabi added.
“We need the parts” and “a DO rating is going to help us a lot,” in providing thousands more Switchblades, he said. The highest Pentagon rating is known as DX, but that’s granted only in rare cases, such as in nuclear weapons systems and fortified tactical vehicles known as MRAPs.
U.S. Fast-Tracked ‘Phoenix Ghost’ Drone Going to Ukraine
Demand for drones has surged as the Ukraine war heads into its third month, with Russian forces regrouping to focus on the east and south of the country. That follows Moscow’s failure to capture Kyiv and other major cities, with Russian forces often getting bogged down in urban warfare.
The Pentagon on Thursday said it had fast-tracked dozens of “Phoenix Ghost” drones built by AEVEX Aerospace to Ukraine as well.
Despite the surge in deliveries of the AeroVironment unmanned aerial vehicles to Ukraine, the Pentagon “has a decent quantity of our Switchblades in stock inventory and we stand ready to produce thousands and thousands more” at a dedicated West Coast factory, Nawabi said.
Initial deliveries to Ukraine were of AeroVironment’s series-300 Switchblades. They are 3.3-pound (2 kilogram) drones designed to attack personnel and light vehicles. They can fly about six miles (10 kilometers) and loiter over a target roughly 15 minutes, according to a fact sheet produced by AeroVironment.
Also headed to Ukraine are newer 50-pound anti-armor model Series-600 versions that can fly more than 24 miles and hover over a target for 40 minutes before attacking with an anti-armor warhead. The drone operator uses a tablet-based touchscreen fire-control system with the option to pilot the loitering missile manually.
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