AeroVironment recently conducted a demonstration for the Navy, of how its systems might counter swarming Fast Inshore Attack Craft (FIAC). If the combination of systems works as advertised, it may be exactly what the Coast Guard needs to counter the small, fast, highly maneuverable end of the terrorists surface vessel attack threat spectrum. It is also small enough that it might fit on something as small as a Response Boat-Medium (RB-M). It would certainly fit on a WPB.
It appears to be precise and have minimal chance of collateral damage. It also has a man in the loop, allowing an attack to be aborted or redirected. It is also supposed to have a capability against other drones, presumably smaller, slower ones at low altitude. The combination consists of a Puma UAS to provide target detection, classification, and targeting, and the Switchblade “Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System” (LMAMS). Switchblade is a missile but a very different one. It is an electric-powered, propeller driven, suicide drone.
The Coast Guard has already tested the Puma on USCGC Healey, and USCGC Chock. The Canadians have chosen it for their Coastal Defense Ships. It has an endurance of up to three hours.
The Puma and Switchblade both use the same control system.
The Switchblade, seen being launched in the photo below, is very small. It is less than two feet long and weighs less than six pounds. The manufacturer’s data sheet is here.
They have introduced a six-pack launch system. It weighs only 160 pounds fully loaded and is only 28″ wide, 34″ deep, and 28″ tall.
Where might we use these? While these systems might become ubiquitous, if they work as advertised, there are a couple of units that stand out as having the most immediate need.
- On our patrol vessels assigned to Patrol Forces South West Asia (PATFORSWA).
- The WPBs assigned to the Coast Guard’s Maritime Force Protection Units Bangor, WA and Kings Bay, GA. that escort Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines in and out of port.
Since the system is portable, it might be assigned to deployable teams.
I would be very curious about the Navy’s view of the demonstration.
I’m wondering why the USCG doesn’t have it as well. I can see this on the NSC, FRC and Future OPC
Don’t see this so much on our larger vessels.
It would be ineffective against anything much larger than a cabin cruiser.
I would prefer something with more punch like Sea Griffin or Longbow Hellfire, but this has the advantage of being very low impact on even very small units. If the CG gets the Puma for its smaller patrol ships, then It is likely this could be added without much additional cost/training.
Some unanswered questions. How easy would it be to jam this? Can it simultaneously engage more than one target?
Something similar here: http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/22223/army-buys-small-suicide-drones-to-break-up-hostile-swarms-and-potentially-more
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Army has awarded a $75.9 million contract for production of the Switchblade loitering munition. https://www.militaryaerospace.com/unmanned/article/14175491/uav-attack-backpackable
There is a new longer range version of this “loitering munition.” https://seapowermagazine.org/aerovironment-unveils-improved-version-of-switchblade-one-way-attack-drone/
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“Aerovironment successfully demonstrates UAS Puma 3 AE and Switchblade 300 Tactical Missile System” use of Puma to provide targeting to Switchblade 300 launched from unmanned surface vessel demonstrated in joint US/UK exercise.
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