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Australia to Acquire US-Made Switchblade 300 Drones Combat-Proven in Ukraine Conflict.

The Australian government is set to enhance its military capabilities by acquiring Switchblade 300 drones from the American company AeroVironment, a type of precision loitering munition effectively used by Ukrainian forces. The announcement, scheduled by the Albanese government for Monday, marks a significant step in modernizing the Australian Defence Force (ADF) with advanced unmanned systems.
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Weighing just 4 pounds, this lightweight, miniature, precision-guided lethal missile can be deployed in less than 2 minutes via tube-launch from land, sea, or mobile platforms providing greater mission flexibility. (Picture source: AEROVIRONMENT)

The Switchblade 300 is noted for its lightweight design and ability to carry an explosive payload, making it highly portable for military operations. The drone has a range of approximately 10 kilometers and has gained attention for its use on the Ukrainian battlefield against Russian forces. Manufactured by AeroVironment, the Switchblade 300 employs a strike missile capable of engaging targets beyond the line of sight, enhancing the tactical flexibility of the forces using it.

The acquisition comes amid growing concerns about the ADF's current capabilities with unmanned aerial systems, which are primarily made up of about 760 systems used mostly for surveillance. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine, where the effectiveness of unmanned systems in combat has been clearly demonstrated, has amplified these concerns. In response, the Australian government, led by Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy, has committed to expanding its drone arsenal, including a significant investment exceeding $10 billion in drone technology, with at least $4.3 billion allocated to unmanned aerial systems.

While details on the quantity and total cost of the Switchblade 300 drones remain undisclosed, prices are estimated to be between about $90,000 and $120,000 each. This purchase aligns with recent international defense trends, as Washington recently approved a substantial sale of the same model to Taiwan and has supplied them to other allies, including Ukraine, France, and the UK following the onset of the conflict in Ukraine in 2022.

In addition to the Switchblade 300, the Australian Army is also preparing to introduce a locally made, electrically powered loitering munition capable of traveling up to 200 kilometers or loitering for 30 minutes with a lethal payload. However, defense sources suggest that this domestic drone will likely enter service after the Switchblade 300.

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