Within a week of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urging the US for more military support to defend his country against Russia’s military operation, Washington, DC, is likely to send killer or kamikaze drones — also referred to as the buzzing bee — as part of a massive military aid package that president Joe Biden announced on 16 March.
US President Joe Biden said yesterday that his administration was sending more anti-aircraft, anti-armour weapons and drones to Ukraine to assist in its defence against Russia, announcing the help after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged the US and the rest of the West to do more in an emotional speech to Congress.
About $ 1 billion in aid has been sent in just the last week. Biden said the new assistance included 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 100 grenade launchers, 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenade launchers and mortar rounds and an unspecified number of drones.
Kamikaze drones’ variety that US is sending to Ukraine
The Japanese word “kamikaze” is associated with a Japanese special attack unit during World War II. The military pilots who were part of the unit would crash their fighter planes and perish in the suicide mission while taking the enemy with them.
Any use of the word kamikaze since World War II is associated with similar suicide missions. In the context of a drone, it is more of a robotic bomb that flies near the designated target until the time is right.
In modern warfare, kamikaze drones are known also as loitering munitions or suicide drones. It can be considered a mix of guided cruise missiles and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).
According to a report by NBC News, a fact sheet from the White House referred to the weapons as “100 tactical unmanned aerial systems”.
Even though there is no clarity on the type of drone being sent to Ukraine, there are two variants of the weapon — the Switchblade 300 and the Switchblade 600.
While the Switchblade 300 is designed for pinpoint strikes on personnel, the larger Switchblade 600 is meant to destroy tanks and other armoured vehicles.
These cutting-edge guided missiles can accurately target enemy troops from miles away.
Equipped with cameras, guidance systems and explosives, the Switchblades are essentially robotic smart bombs.
The drones can be programmed to fly to a target and can be steered around the objectives until the time is right to strike.
According to AeroVironment, the manufacturers of Switchblade, the Switchblade 600 can loiter in the air for nearly 40 minutes at a distance of 25 miles, and then strike its target at up to 115 mph speed.
The smaller of the two variants, Switchblade 300, is less than 2-feet long and weighs nearly 2.5 kg. It can be carried in a rucksack and can be launched from a small tube that resembles a mortar. It can fly for up to 15 min.
Both the variants can be guided to the target using onboard sensors and GPS. It also has a “wave-off” feature for its operators who can abort an attack even after sending it off.