Marines Fire Switchblade Drone From Osprey in Test

000222-N-5221P-001Marines fired a small airborne drone capable of carrying explosives from the back of an MV-22 Osprey in a test that could offer the tilt-rotor aircraft a new weapons potential.

Called the Switchblade, the drone was initially developed as a small intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft. Marines at Twentynine Palms, Calif., attached one of the tube-launched drones atop an Osprey for a test attack-launch.

The system is small enough to be carried by a single soldier or Marine, according to the company, AeroVironment of Monrovia, California. Marines have been using the drone in Afghanistan since 2011. At Twentynine Palms Marines demonstrated the company’s claim that it could be launched from the air, as well.

The five pound drone did not carry a lethal payload for the test-run, but was successfully released and accurately steered toward its target, Col. James Adams, commander of Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1, told The Washington Post.

Adams said the drone could carry an explosive with about the same charge as a hand grenade.

An MV-22 delivering Marines into a combat zone would be able to release the weaponized ISR drone, which would be piloted remotely using its camera feature directly toward its target.

The company said the drone provides its pilot with real-time video and GPS coordinates. It has a small electric motor, making it quiet and difficult to detect or track.

Switchblade has a 10-mile operational radius and can fly or loiter for up to 10 minutes at speeds of between 63 and 98 miles per hour, according to the company.

-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at Bryant.jordan@military.com

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