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Weapons: Switchblade Secretly Sent To Afghanistan
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October 28, 2011: The U.S. Army recently revealed that it sent some Switchblade UAV systems to Afghanistan last year, for secret field testing. This was apparently successful. It appears that Switchblade is currently used largely by Special Forces and other special operations troops. In September, it was announced that, after a year of successful testing, the army was ordering over a hundred Switchblade UAVs for troop use.

The Switchblade is a one kilogram (2.2 pound) expendable (used only once) UAV that can be equipped with explosives. The Switchblade is launched from its shipping and storage tube, at which point wings flip out, a battery powered propeller starts spinning and a vidcam begins broadcasting images to the controller. The Switchblade is operated using the same gear the larger (two kg/4.4 pound) Raven UAV employs.

Switchblade can also be launched from the 70mm rocket tubes used on army helicopters. Moving at up to a kilometer a minute, the Switchblade can stay in the air for 20-40 minutes (depending on whether or not it is armed with explosives.) The armed version can be flown to a target and detonated, having about the same explosive effect as a hand grenade. Thus the Switchblade could be useful for ground troops, to get at an enemy taking cover in a hard to see location. Switchblade completed development two years ago. Technically a guided missile, the use of Switchblade as a reconnaissance tool encouraged developers to refer to it as a UAV.

 

 

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eldnah    hand granade   10/29/2011 10:16:52 AM
Has the US just deployed the $10,000 hand grenade? What do these little beasties actually cost?
 
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WarNerd       10/29/2011 2:05:38 PM
Has the US just deployed the $10,000 hand grenade? What do these little beasties actually cost?
No, it is a $10,000 precision guided light mortar round with a 20km range and the ability to find its own targets.  Well not quite on the last, there is still a man in the loop.
 
These things will probably start as a platoon level support weapon, but don’t be surprised if they eventually become a squad level weapon.  I'll bet most of them get used at a range of 2km or less as a sniper weapon to take out low level commanders and ‘stay behind’ machine gun nests to discourage pursuit.  These could be a real game changer in Afghanistan.
 
The bad part is they are so simple they will be showing up in enemy hands pretty quick.
 
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eldnah       10/29/2011 3:22:27 PM
I have no idea if the Switchblades cost 1K, 10K or 100K which is why I asked the question. Nor do I doubt the tactical value of the devices. I do wonder at the bang for the buck. I am sure if your the pinned-down trooper the cost of the equipment is your last concern. But the U S has a problem with over-priced weapons and is facing dramatic defense budget cuts.  For the cost of one F-22 (350M), production and R & D costs included, you could have bought all four of the actual plus the two projected Iowa class battleships (60M each). I know we are talking 1945 dollars vs 2011 dollars but if we look at the real 18X increase in the CPI during that time, an Iowa would cost about 1B in today's dollars which translates to about three F-22s for one Iowa. I know the ship would have 1945 capabilities but you still have to wonder.. 
 
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krosny       10/30/2011 12:17:52 AM
 
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krosny       10/30/2011 12:20:06 AM
The price of the F-22 is not as crazy as it seems when we remember two things:
 
1. The F-22 was designed at the outset to SKIP an entire generation. Why? In part, to badly discourage any other country from even thinking about challenging us in the air. That alone will account for much if not all of the massive cost per aircraft.
 
2. The price of an F-22 cannot be considered in a vacuum. I.e., raw cost vs. other potential purchases such as battleships in your example. The point of deterrence, as I understand it, is to not just stay slightly ahead of potential enemies but to stay as much as one generation ahead or more in order to keep a potential adversary from even trying to compete.
 
In the end, I'm not sure who or what you are blaming. The MI Complex? How about Congress? I don't blame anybody. But the decision to skip a generation in the F-22's case was a political decision and one I thoroughly agree with. But whether you agree or not, the F-22 was and is far ahead of anything else being fielded in similar numbers. The Russians and Chinese claim stealth fighters but I suspect they are far inferior and we will only see a relative handful being built in the near to medium term. That's the point of paying so much for the F-22--to keep potential enemies as much as 20+ years behind so they know they can't get too cute militarity.
 
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krosny       10/30/2011 1:44:22 AM
The price of the F-22 is not as crazy as it seems when we remember two things:
 
1. The F-22 was designed at the outset to SKIP an entire generation. Why? In part, to badly discourage any other country from even thinking about challenging us in the air. That alone will account for much if not all of the massive cost per aircraft.
 
2. The price of an F-22 cannot be considered in a vacuum. I.e., raw cost vs. other potential purchases such as battleships in your example. The point of deterrence, as I understand it, is to not just stay slightly ahead of potential enemies but to stay as much as one generation ahead or more in order to keep a potential adversary from even trying to compete.
 
In the end, I'm not sure who or what you are blaming. The MI Complex? How about Congress? I don't blame anybody. But the decision to skip a generation in the F-22's case was a political decision and one I thoroughly agree with. But whether you agree or not, the F-22 was and is far ahead of anything else being fielded in similar numbers. The Russians and Chinese claim stealth fighters but I suspect they are far inferior and we will only see a relative handful being built in the near to medium term. That's the point of paying so much for the F-22--to keep potential enemies as much as 20+ years behind so they know they can't get too cute militarity.
 
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ker       10/30/2011 7:37:03 AM
What is the cost per hour for a infantry squad? A tool that can turn a two hour job into a 20 minute job could save 20 K.
 
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