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AeroVironment faces warhead supply constraints

A model of the Switchblade 300 loitering munition is displayed at the 2021 Association of the United States Army annual trade show in Washington, DC. (Janes)

Obtaining warheads for AeroVironment's Switchblade 300 and 600 tube-launched loitering missiles has become a “challenge”, because the Ukraine war has boosted demand for the explosive parts, according to the company's chief executive.

It will take time for warhead suppliers to increase production and for AeroVironment to develop alternative sources, AeroVironment chairman, president, and CEO Wahid Nawabi told analysts during an earnings call on 6 March. Getting warheads for the Switchblade 600 has been particularly challenging because Lockheed Martin's increasingly popular Javelin anti-tank missile uses a similar warhead, Nawabi said.

The US Department of Defense (DoD) has provided both Switchblade versions, as well as Javelins, to Ukraine to help it counter Russia's invasion. The US Army awarded a USD20.6 million contract to AeroVironment in August 2022 to buy additional Switchblade 300s.

General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems (GD-OTS) is working to ramp up production of its Multi-Purpose Warhead, which is used on the Switchblade 600 and the Javelin, a GD-OTS spokesperson told Janes on 7 March.

“GD-OTS is in the process of qualifying second sources for the critical components that are existing constraints for its Multi-Purpose Warhead,” the spokesperson said. “Qualification will be completed [in] mid-year 2023, and this will support both Switchblade 600 and higher production volumes for high-priority [US] Army programmes of record.”

Northrop Grumman, which also supplies warheads for Switchblade, said in a 7 March statement that it is “working to meet urgent needs” for defence products that are experiencing increased international demand.

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