15 May 2023
by Andrew White
AeroVironment's Switchblade 300 Block 20, showcased at SOF Week 2023, has twice the endurance of its predecessor and hosts a modular payload and a side tilt camera. (Andrew White)
US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is prioritising loitering technologies to support counter-violent extremist organisation (C-VEO) operations and strategic competition, service leaders said.
“Loitering capabilities has been one of the big things on my mind” this year, Colonel Anh Ha, programme executive officer Special Operations Forces (SOF) Warrior, said at SOF Week in Tampa, Florida, on 10 May.
Explaining why he referred to ‘loitering capability' instead of ‘loitering munitions', Col Ha said, “There is so much more capability you can add onto a [UAS] and many different things that you can think about.”
Col Ha suggested loitering platforms could feature electronic warfare (EW) payloads.
PEO SOF Warrior is supporting several programmes focused on fielding loitering munitions, including its Ground Organic Precision Strike System (GOPSS) that seeks three categories of capability.
Echelon 2 – a crew-served or vehicle-mounted capability – is currently provided by Rafael's Spike Non-Line-of-Sight (NLOS), AeroVironment's Switchblade 600, and UVision's Hero-120SF munitions.
A tube-launched Echelon 1 capability includes AeroVironment's Switchblade 300 and UVision's Hero-30SFR.
Echelon 0, envisaged to comprise a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) solution, is expected to be sought in 2024 and beyond, PEO SOF Warrior officials said.
SOF Warrior is also interested in automated target recognition (ATR) and extended ranges for its inventory of loitering munitions, officials added.
At SOF Week, AeroVironment displayed the latest variant of its Switchblade 300 that is under contract with the US Army. The Switchblade 300 Block 20 has twice the endurance of its predecessor and hosts a modular payload and a side tilt camera.
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US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is prioritising loitering technologies to support counter-vi...