The Pentagon announced that it will deliver 121 “Phoenix Ghost” drones. The drone was developed prior to Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, but after discussions with Ukrainian officials, Air Force officials realized that the drone capabilities “very nicely suit their needs.”
The drones, the official said, were rapidly adapted in the last month by Air Force officials working directly with input and specifications from Ukrainian military officials. The systems are built by Aevex Aerospace, a California company. The Switchblade is built by AeroVironment, headquartered in Virginia.
If the Phoenix Ghost is similar to the Switchblade, it will be a one-time-use system that flies and targets like a drone, sending video back to a remote operator. Once deployed, it crashes into its target, detonating an explosive warhead. Switchblades can be fired by a handful of soldiers or even one soldier with very little preparation or support. The Phoenix Ghost is capable of engaging medium armored ground targets, can take off vertically, and can fly for six-plus hours searching for or tracking a target, and operate at night using its infrared sensors,
The Switchblade 300 can loiter for about an hour, while the Switchblade 600, which requires a team to launch and operate, is closer in specifications to the Phoenix Ghost, though neither use helicopter-like vertical takeoffs.
AEVEX describes itself as providing end-to-end aircraft and sensor system design, provision, integration, operations, sustainment, and data analysis.
AEVEX does not appear to be an unmanned systems manufacturer. It’s possible the company acted as a prime contractor to develop and integrate components onto an existing UAS, such as control technologies and a warhead. It’s also possible it is working as a domestic contractor lead for an imported or licensed design.
Top Photo: Lance Cpl. Brandon Janik launches a Switchblade 300 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, Sept. 24, 2021. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alexis Moradian.