Americas Military

Marine Corps pursues ‘kamikaze’ drone

By James K. Sanborn

NORFOLK, Va. — The Marine Corps is taking steps to procure its first “kamikaze” drone in an effort to provide small units the ability to quickly strike soft targets such as IED emplacement teams.

The Switchblade, produced by California-based AeroVironment, can be guided into a target and explode on impact, almost like a hand grenade, said company spokesman Steven Gitlin.

“For the first time they will have their own organic ability to engage targets [with a UAV],” he said.

Units that identify potential targets typically have to call for air support, a multistep process.

Enemies often slip away by the time an armed unmanned aerial vehicle, attack helicopter, fighter-bomber or quick-reaction force arrive on station. Marines also compete with other allied units for mission priority or those taking enemy fire, so missions are not always filled.

“Think about it — pairing switchblade aerial munitions with an [unmanned surveillance drone like a] Raven, Wasp or Puma — a small team with those tools can know what is going on around them within about 15 klicks,” Gitlin said. “Once they identify a threat, Switchblade lets them engage that threat immediately.”

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