The U.S. Army's Special Operations command signed a $26.1 million contract with the AeroVironment company for the supply of "Switchblade 600" loitering munitions, intended mainly for effective attacks on light armor. It is the first order for this type of loitering munition that was unveiled in October 2020. The contract says that the company is to manufacture and deliver an unspecified number of loitering munitions for "specialized maritime platforms" by January 2023.
The Flight Global website reported that loitering munition is an unmanned air platform including a warhead that operates like a ballistic missile. The Switchblade 600 is a loitering munition carried by a single soldier and launched from a tube using compressed gas. The system has an electro-optic and infrared camera, a range of 80 km, and the capability of loitering for 40 minutes. The aircraft can carry an anti-armor warhead and be directed into targets, and can destroy stationary or moving lightly armored vehicles.
The U.S. Army intends to integrate this type of loitering munition with special vessels of the special forces, so the platform could be used to identify sources of fire and launch munitions. The intention is apparently to integrate the munition into Mark V vessels that are used by the Navy Seals for coastal patrol missions.
In March, the Defense Department announced that Britain would be the first buyer of the Switchblade 600 loitering munition, and that the deal was approved by the U.S. government.