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.

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Bryant Jordan
Bryant Jordan is a reporter for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @BryantJordan.
  • Highguard

    Air Force. These things are incredibly low cost. Security Forces SQs overseas should all be ordering a dozen of these for Air-Base Ground Defense vs enemy SOF attack.

    • Kostas

      Do you have an actual cost in $ for the system or are you just guessing?

    • blight_…

      Don’t know what planet 40k is “incredibly low cost”.

      You’d think giving USAF Security Forces ROE to defend themselves would be far cheaper than relying on drones…

  • oblatt23

    With a loiter time of ten minutes and packing all the punch of a hand grenade there are few weapons more useless than the Switchblade drone. Makes it a perfect fit for the “useless as a helicopter hopeless as an aircraft” osprey

  • @GavinoSis12

    Hypothetical: four Ospreys carring Marines deploy 8 Switchblades to survey LZ area… 4 enemy positions located… Switchblades clear em out. That ain’t worth it?!

  • Auyong Ah Meng

    This reminds me of Rogue Trooper from AD2000 comics….a Nork scout ship released a cloud of hundreds of loitering drone mines over a target area…some burrow into the ground, others hide amongst the weckage/shell cratered land and others loiter in the sky (occassionally land to re-recharge)….the mines are anti-everything…as long as a non-IFF target enter their areas of control…zip zip and wham the target/s. At the rate mil tech progresses….above scenario is becoming more feasible and real.

  • mhpr262

    A more interesting possibility would be to carry a few dozens of them on board and, once launched, hand off control over them to an infantry squad who is under fire. they know exactly where the enemy is, they don’t need to carry the drones and the osprey can stay way out of range of enemy fire.

  • blight_

    Let’s make the enemy use up all of their surveillance switchblades as flying hand grenades. Great, that’ll make their organic ISR nice and depleted for when they really need them.

  • NorEastern

    Seems like the Gen 3 120 kw laser just detailed at $1 a shot might be a better choice for the Osprey. It would never run out of “bullets”.

  • I.C. MERCER Sr

    G- I wish I had toy like those in the 60’s!

  • Billy Andrew

    Much like the way conventional aircraft were used, first as observational then weaponry.

  • Drew

    All this article does is give more questions. Is the switchblade (in conventional form) recoverable? If so, can it be recovered back into the Osprey? Also if normally recoverable, is it going to be destroyed when using it as a weapon platform, or does it release its hand grenade and then continue to loiter or regress?

    • blight_

      I don’t think it actually carries a hand grenade. What they probably meant was that the drone could be modified to carry explosives, equivalent to a hand grenade in payload.

  • Ron Haris

    That is a great tech improvement that will give ‘eyes’ and more at the combat field, most importantly will save our brave soldiers life!

  • Jake

    Hell give me 500 a piece and I’ll strap a brick of c4 to an rc plane along with a go pro camera. There’s no excuse for 40,000 dollars.