Russia has developed a drone similar to the US-made Switchblade but twice as powerful, as per the fact sheet of the drone doing the rounds on social media.
A Russian company known as Android Technics NPO has developed the LAOP-500 drone, which can be deployed against enemy personnel, unarmored vehicles, and heavily armored vehicles, as per the claims made by the company.
The company presented the factsheet of the drone at last week’s Army 2022 defense expo held near Patriot park in Moscow, Russia.
Russia's NPO Android Technics presented a fact sheet on the LAOP 500 loitering munition at Army 2022, which is a Russian version of the Switchblade 300.https://t.co/tMhuRBwRXi pic.twitter.com/BkfWchFQqG
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) August 23, 2022
The Vladimir Belyi Design Bureau designed the drone, which is said to be Russia’s version of Switchblade 300 loitering munitions made by AeroVironment. This American defense contractor designs and manufactures unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
LAOP-500 Vs Switchblade Drones
According to the fact sheet released by Android Technics NPO, the LAOP-500 drone can hit targets at a range of up to five kilometers and has an endurance of up to 20 minutes.
The Switchblade 300 munition has twice the range of the LAOP-500 drone and only a slightly lower endurance of 15 minutes.
The Switchblade 300 weighs 2.5 kilograms, including the warhead, while the weight of LAOP 500 is unknown, it can reportedly carry a payload of around 500 grams of Trinitrotoluene (TNT) explosives.
The Switchblade 300 is designed for pinpoint strikes against enemy personnel or unprotected weapons, such as a mortar launcher or exposed machine gun emplacement. While the LAOP 500 is claimed to be twice as powerful and can destroy heavily armored vehicles.
Video of a Ukrainian Switchblade 300 loitering munition strike on a Russian border checkpoint in Troebortnoe, Bryansk Oblast from today. https://t.co/hUECWJsQorhttps://t.co/ODZMgovJuhhttps://t.co/RA0jmSrPDl pic.twitter.com/GYvf7F8s2c
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) July 26, 2022
There is also an extended range Switchblade 600 variant that has a range of 40 kilometers, weighs 54.4 kilograms (all inclusive weight), and is equipped with a dual electro-optical and infrared sensor suite.
With an endurance of 40 minutes and a payload of around 13.6 kilograms, it can be used against larger, hardened targets via an anti-armor warhead and does not need external surveillance or fire assets. This also raises doubt about the claims that the Russian-made LAOP 500 can destroy armored targets with only about 500 grams of TNT.
A remarkable feature of Switchblade drones is something called the “waved off” capability, which allows for the prevention of collateral damage. For example, the operator can adjust the blast radius, so the drone kills only the vehicle’s driver but not a passenger.
According to AeroVironment, the weapon can be waved off up to two seconds before the impact.
Furthermore, the Switchblade 600 also has the ‘recommit’ capability in addition to ‘wave-off,’ allowing the drone operators to abort the mission at any time and re-engage either the same or other targets multiple times.
Loitering Munitions In The Ukraine War
Loitering munitions have become very popular in recent months due to their excessive use in the ongoing Ukraine war.
The Switchblade drones were not very popular before, despite being used by the US military for several years. For example, these drones were used in Afghanistan against the Taliban. The weapons were referred to as an “angry bird” or a “buzzing bee,” according to Wahid Nawabi, the Afghan-born CEO of AeroVironment.
However, the ongoing Ukraine war brought rapid prominence to Switchblade munition after several reports of their success against various Russian military targets.
In addition to the numerous Switchblade 300 munitions already supplied, the US will also supply ten Switchblade 600 drones to Ukraine, but it remains unclear yet when the drones will arrive in the war-torn country.
Apart from that, the US is also supplying the Ukrainian military with the Phoenix Ghost loitering munition, made by California-based Aevex Aerospace, which is said to resemble the Switchblade drones.
Even the Phoenix Ghost munitions have proven very effective, seeing as how the Biden Administration announced to send 580 more drones to Ukraine in July.
Nothing is known about the Phoenix Ghost’s design and weight. Experts note that the explosion in the strikes allegedly carried out using this drone is much larger than previously observed in Switchblade 300 strikes, suggesting the Phoenix Ghost has a bigger warhead capable of destroying medium armor but smaller than the 600 variant.
Video of a loitering munition strike by Ukraine's 28th Mechanized Brigade on a Russian 82mm mortar position. The graphic on the video suggests this was by a US-made Phoenix Ghost loitering munition.https://t.co/CVUeHwesMh pic.twitter.com/n8PA4eWXdK
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) August 1, 2022
Some details about Phoenix Ghost were also revealed by Politico, according to which the drone has a six-hour loitering time, which far exceeds the endurance of both the Switchblade drones. It also has infrared guidance for night attacks.
These details were confirmed by the adviser to the Ukrainian President’s Office, Oleksii Arestovysch, in an interview with Defense Express, in which he also revealed that the Phoenix Ghost is ‘backpackable.’
It is impressive, as one would expect the Phoenix Ghost to be large enough to accommodate the additional fuel tank capacity or a bigger battery for six-hour endurance.
Even the Switchblade 600, which can loiter for only 40 minutes, must be transported in two coffin-sized cases, meaning the Phoenix Ghost is much smaller while boasting a more powerful warhead than the Switchblade 300.