AeroVironment has announced a US Air Force contract modification worth $4.2 million for the delivery of its Switchblade unmanned air vehicle, which has undergone a trial combat deployment with US special forces in Afghanistan.
A small UAV weighing about 2.7kg (6lb), the Switchblade can be launched from the standard 40mm grenade tube often carried by US ground forces. It then functions as a flying munition, intended for use against targets that are difficult to reach or in situations that require less firepower than a mortar. The operator can steer the aircraft in controlled flight for up to 10min, or over a distance of up to 20km (10.8nm).
AeroVironment on 15 February said its order includes "engineering services, operational Switchblade systems and operator training".
"This award will enable significant progress in maturing the system for broader use," said Mark Messick, vice president and general manager of ATK, which manufactures the explosive used in the Switchblade aircraft.