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Ukraine to get costly Switchblade 600 drones as Phoenix Ghost fails and cheap Iranian Shahed-136 dominates  

Ukraine's partners will donate "several sets" of Switchblade 600 drones to its armed forces. This is a larger version of the Switchblade 300 drones that Ukraine is already receiving from the U.S. These drones can take out larger targets, including tanks, using an anti-tank warhead. The U.S. has no other option but to act diplomatically in order to stop the flow of drones from Iran to Russia and other countries. The European Union has already announced sanctions against Iranian personnel and the manufacturer of Shahed 136 drones, but they have proved ineffective.

Switchblade 600 drone
Switchblade 600 kamikaze drone by AeroVironment. Frame from the video

Ukraine’s partners will hand over Switchblade 600 drones to its armed forces, the spokesman of the Ukrainian Air Force Command, Yuri Ihnat, announced on Friday. Until now, Ukraine has received a different version of these drones, the Switchblade 300, which has proved ineffective.

The United States was hesitant to provide Ukraine with Switchblade 600 drones as they were expensive and recently introduced. But with the Iranian Shahed-136 drone proving to be a game changer on the battlefield, Ukraine is now looking for similar drones.

Ihnat, quoted by the Ukrainian portal Hromadske, said the partners would donate “several sets” of Switchblade 600 drones to Ukraine. – This is a modern drone with very strong technical and tactical parameters. We expect it to present itself very well in combat operations in Ukraine, said the spokesman.

Talks on the delivery of 10 Kamikaze Switchblade 600 anti-tank drones to Ukraine were reported in May. Bloomberg then announced that the Pentagon is seeking a contract to purchase ten such drones. Ukraine’s defence minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, said in an interview with Politico, published on October 25, that Ukraine is “still waiting” for these drones. The company AeroVironment, which developed the machines, said in October that 10 UAVs should be delivered within weeks, Politico said.

Switchblade 600 is a larger version of the Switchblade 300 drones that Ukraine is already receiving from the U.S. These machines weigh about 23 kilograms, can fly over 38 kilometres and stay in the air for 40 minutes at an altitude of up to 4.6 km. They use an anti-tank warhead in the attack. While the “300” version is used to attack manpower, the Switchblade 600 machines can take out larger targets, including tanks. The drone is fired from a mortar-like launcher. The whole set weighs about 54 kg.

The U.S. had previously supplied Ukraine with the secretive Phoenix Ghost drones, which the Department of Defense (Pentagon) Spokesperson John Kirby said: “provides the same tactical options as the Switchblade.” He said, “these systems are designed for tactical purposes such as attacking targets and monitoring the battlefield,” which makes it the equivalent of the Iranian Shahed-136 drones. Not much is known about this drone, and judging by the battlefield results, Phoenix Ghost drones have yet to live up to their hype. It is estimated that there are about 700 Pheonix Ghost drones in Ukraine. 

U.S. State Department: We want to hinder the delivery of Iranian drones to Russia. We will use all the tools

The military options for countering the Iranian drones have proved costly, and the U.S. has no other option but to act diplomatically.

Neal Price, a spokesman for the State Department, stated that the United States would utilise all available means to hinder and disrupt the shipment of Iranian drones to Russia and other nations. As he highlighted, it is also about tools that go beyond economic constraints and sanctions. The sanctions have proved ineffective against Iran, which has developed low cost military technologies to overwhelm the enemies. 

– We will use all the tools at our disposal (…) We will continue to focus on those who are responsible for delivering this technology. We will be looking at our sanctions powers and what we can do with those powers … We also have tools that go beyond sanctions and other economic measures, Price said.

“Ultimately, we will do what is in our interest to counter and disrupt the flow of this technology from Iran to countries around the world,” he added.

The spokesman pointed out the deliveries of unmanned aerial vehicles and ammunition circulating from Iran are a violation of the U.N. Security Council resolution and announced that further steps in this matter would be announced soon. He declined to provide details of what non-sanctioning measures the U.S. might take. 

“We will not give up any of the options on the table,” he pointed out.

According to the US, Iran sent Russia “dozens” of drones and “kamikaze drones”, and Iranian military personnel were present in Crimea to train Russians to use them.

The European Union has already announced sanctions against Iranian personnel and the manufacturer of Shahed 136 drones, but they have proven to be inconsequential. Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, Director of the Industrial Research Unit under the Defense Ministry, was sanctioned by the E.U. as he is in charge of the Iranian military drone programme and exports of drones, mocked the E.U. and advised the Union to buy coal for its citizens with the confiscated wealth he has hidden in Europe.

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