The Switchblade 300 has garnered praise as an impressive weapon, exemplified by its successful strikes against various Russian military targets such as fortifications and shelters. However, it appears that the weapon may not be suitable for the current conflict in Ukraine, where the primary targets of the armed forces are Russian tanks, artillery, and anti-aircraft missile systems – against which the Switchblade 300 is evidently ineffective. As noted by commentator David Hambling, the Pentagon’s decision to not procure additional units of the Switchblade 300 in their planned military budget for 2024, serves as a clear indication of their acknowledgement of this limitation.
Undoubtedly, the Pentagon’s decision to refrain from additional purchases of the Switchblade 300 could stem from several factors. One possible explanation could be the weapon’s suboptimal performance against Russian artillery platforms in the battlefield. Alternatively, price may also be a contributing factor, although David Hambling, a military analyst, notes that the $80,000 price tag is not exorbitant by military standards. In fact, this cost encompasses various components, such as the guidance system, warhead, integrated computer systems, hull, sensors, etc.
Nevertheless, the price relative to market competition could still play a role in the Pentagon’s decision. For instance, throughout the war, civilian drones costing between $500 to $700 have been utilized by both Ukrainian and Russian forces, often armed with hand and grenade explosives, yielding successful results.
Numerous videos on the internet showcase the devastating impact of a simple civilian quadcopter, mounted with a grenade, as it flies over the open hatch of a tank or Russian armored personnel carrier and drops the explosive device into the crew compartment. This low-tech yet effective tactic has been widely utilized by both Ukrainian and Russian forces throughout the conflict.
In March of this year, the Ukrainian Armed Forces received a generous donation of 300 DJI Mavic 3T drones, priced at $5,700 for the Worry-Free Basic Combo model according to the manufacturer’s website. This means that for the cost of a single Switchblade 300 drone, the Ukrainians can acquire 14 DJI drones, which are expected to be more efficient in combat than the Switchblade 300.
Moreover, Ukraine has access to numerous other drone models, such as the FPV kamikaze drones, which are even cheaper than the DJI Mavic 3T Worry-Free Basic Combo. Sources suggest that Ukraine has obtained tens of thousands of these FPV drones, further underscoring the superior cost-effectiveness of this alternative approach. It appears that not only are these drones more affordable and deadly, but the Switchblade 300 also struggles to effectively engage Russian tanks or artillery, rendering it less useful in the current conflict.
During the onset of the conflict, discussions concerning the provision of heavy combat armored vehicles to Ukraine were still underway. However, the emergence of the Switchblade 300 drone proved to be a formidable force on the battlefield. Our site alone contains evidence of dozens of destroyed Russian positions, and the internet is awash with videos and photos of its success. Nevertheless, despite its impressive performance, the Switchblade 300 was not without flaws. Our records indicate instances of failed attacks, and the capture of one such drone would offer the Russians the opportunity to scrutinize its technology.
As the conflict progressed, Western-supplied weapons began to surface on the dark net for sale, including the Switchblade 300 at a highly discounted price of $4,000 to $5,000.
On May 6th, the first recorded use of the Switchblade 300 in the Ukraine war was documented, and subsequent photos surfaced. Although it remains uncertain whether the drone fulfilled its duties or was shot down, it is a fact that the Russian armed forces examined its composition even at that early stage.
The Pentagon remains the primary purchaser of this particular drone model, and the current suspension of their purchases does not appear to affect its larger counterpart, the Switchblade 600, in any way. There have been reports circulating for several weeks now that the Switchblade 300 is also in use in Ukraine, and we will undoubtedly be monitoring its performance closely in the weeks ahead.
However, when a major buyer like the Pentagon ceases purchasing, there is a realistic possibility that the production of this model may cease altogether, although no official confirmation has been made as yet. The manufacturer of these drones, AeroVironment, has declined to comment on the Army’s decision to forgo purchasing the Switchblade 300 this year.
Nevertheless, it is worth noting that we began this article by praising the Switchblade 300 as a formidable weapon, but only under certain circumstances and at a particular cost. Against the backdrop of cheap drones converted for military use, Ukraine’s decision to utilize small quadcopters is both practical and logical.
In addition to the practicality of Ukraine’s decision to use small quadcopters, it would be advisable for the US to halt its procurement of the Switchblade 300 drone. It is worth considering whether new and improved technology is currently under development, utilizing the Switchblade 300 as a basis. In many cases throughout history, Washington has chosen not to purchase certain weapons when the manufacturer has already prepared a more advanced and effective alternative. Only time will tell if this is the case with the Switchblade 300.