The United States has sent 600 more AeroVironment Switchblade drones to help the Ukrainian military counter Russia's invasion, the US Defense Department revealed Thursday. That's a major increase from the 100 drones the US sent in March.
The drones are "loitering munitions" that can circle above a battlefield before in effect becoming missiles that attack specific targets. They're included in the Pentagon's new $800 million in military aid to Ukraine, a package that brings the country's total contributions to $2.6 billion in security assistance. The US also has sent an undisclosed number of AeroVironment Puma drones, which can circle for hours above a battlefield and help soldiers direct Switchblades toward their targets.
Drones in Ukraine are changing the nature of war, providing a relatively cheap way for soldiers to see what's going on and launch attacks against expensive armored vehicles. Ukrainian troops are using everything from small commercial drones to the large military Turkish-built Bayraktar TB2.
But that doesn't mean more traditional weaponry is obsolete. The US also has shipped to Ukraine 50 million rounds of ammunition, 16 Mi-17 helicopters, 18 155mm howitzers, 1,400 shoulder-launched Stinger anti-aircraft missile systems, 5,500 shoulder-launched Javelin missile systems for attacking armored vehicles, 200 armored personnel carriers, 14 counter-artillery radar systems and 75,000 sets of body armor and helmets, the Pentagon said.
AeroVironment makes the 5.5-pound Switchblade 300, designed to attack soldiers and smaller vehicles, and the 50-pound Switchblade 600 for larger, armored vehicles. The Defense Department and AeroVironment didn't immediately comment on which models are being sent to Ukraine.