The UK plans to buy the AeroVironment Switchblade loitering munition, in what appears to be the first purchase of the US-made weapon by a foreign country.
The sale was disclosed by the US Department of Defense (DoD) in an online notice on 16 March. The value of the deal, number of munitions sold or type of Switchblade were not disclosed, though the DoD said it was part of “Foreign Military Sales (United Kingdom) funds”. It is not clear what military service within the UK purchased the Switchblade.
AeroVironment declines to comment directly on the sale, but says: “As we discussed in our third quarter earnings conference call on 9 March, we received US government approval for the first export of our Switchblade 300.” The company said in its earnings call that it would not disclose the customer.
“This is an important milestone for us as we market Switchblade’s unique capabilities to international customers,” says Wahid Nawabi, chief executive of AeroVironment. “We believe additional demand from close US allies will also be forthcoming. We expect Switchblade exports to take place within the US government’s Foreign Military Sales programme as opposed to direct commercial sales.”
The 300-variant is the earliest type of the Switchblade. It is smaller and intended as an anti-personnel munition. The loitering munition is man-portable and has a range of 5.4nm (10km).
Last October, AeroVironment unveiled its Switchblade 600, a loitering munition with a larger warhead that is effective against light-amour. That weapon is also man-portable and has a range of 43nm.