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Joe Biden is considering sending U.S.-made kamikaze ‘Switchblade’ drones to Ukraine as part of a $1 billion defense package aimed at answering President Volodymyr Zelensky’s pleas for help.

The small, lightweight and comparatively cheap ‘kamikaze’ weapons, which are effectively remote-controlled bombs, come in two versions which have been designed to take out tanks or artillery positions.

They are designed by Washington DC-based AeroVironment, and would be part of a huge package of military aid approved for Ukraine by Biden on Tuesday.

The most powerful of the two Switchblades, the Switchblade 600, weighs 50lbs and can hover over a target for 40 minutes before darting down at speeds of 115mph, piercing armor and destroying a tank.

The lighter Switchblade 300 is intended to kill people in the open and passengers in a vehicle.

It weighs only 5.5lbs but can travel for six miles, hover for 15 minutes, and then dive down to a target at 100mph.

Both Switchblades are designed to be easily portable, fitting into a rucksack and fired from a tube set up in 10 minutes.

They are also intended to be cost-efficient; a Switchblade 300 costs $6,000, versus a $150,000-a-time Hellfire missile, fired from a conventional Predator or Reaper drone.

A promotional image showing the Switchblade drone being fired from its tube, which can be carried in a backpack. The most powerful of the two Switchblades, the 600, can fly for 40 minutes, then hover and dive down at 115mph in a kamikaze-style mission - which can be aborted at the last minute if an error is made

A promotional image showing the Switchblade drone being fired from its tube, which can be carried in a backpack. The most powerful of the two Switchblades, the 600, can fly for 40 minutes, then hover and dive down at 115mph in a kamikaze-style mission - which can be aborted at the last minute if an error is made

A promotional image showing the Switchblade drone being fired from its tube, which can be carried in a backpack. The most powerful of the two Switchblades, the 600, can fly for 40 minutes, then hover and dive down at 115mph in a kamikaze-style mission – which can be aborted at the last minute if an error is made

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An additional advantage of the Switchblade, AeroVironment say, is that the strike can be aborted seconds before the target is hit – unlike a Hellfire drone. Hellfires have frequently hit targets that later turned out to be not what was expected.

SOPHISTICATED SWITCHBLADES ARE EASY TO USE 

SWITCHBLADE 600

Can pierce armored vehicles

Weighs 50lbs

Hovers above targets for 40 minutes

Can travel 25 miles

Top speed of 115mph

Can be aborted at the last minute

 

SWITCHBLADE 300

Designed to kill people and passengers

Weighs 5.5lbs

Hovers above targets for 15 minutes

Can travel 6 miles

Top speed of 100mph

Can be aborted at the last minute

Can fit in a rucksack

Costs $6,000

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The idea of sending Switchblades to Ukraine was first reported by NBC News

Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, will address the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, having already received a rousing show of support when he was beamed live into the British and Canadian parliaments.

Zelensky, 44, is expected to appeal once again to the U.S. to implement a No-Fly Zone, while accepting in reality that the U.S. is unlikely to do so.

Biden and his advisors insist that doing so, and putting U.S. planes above Ukraine to enforce the plan, would drag the United States and its NATO allies into war with Russia.

Zelensky is also expected to detail what more he hopes to see from the United States.

Biden is expected to announce $1.01 billion in new military assistance to Ukraine’s government.

The money is expected to include anti-armor and anti-air systems, including portable air defenses such as Javelins and Stingers.

It would come from the roughly $13.6 billion allotted for Ukraine in the omnibus budget bill Biden signed on Tuesday.

The U.S. is still in the process of sending the most recent tranche of support, about $350 million in arms, to Ukraine.

Since 2014, the U.S. had provided $2.5 billion in military aid before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, defense officials said.

The White House is considering sending more troops to Europe, The Wall Street Journal reported, to add to the roughly 15,000 deployed there since the Russia-Ukraine crisis began.

But Biden – who has repeatedly ruled out sending U.S. troops into Ukraine – is not expected to deploy more troops now, U.S. officials said.

Joe Biden, seen speaking on Tuesday, has approved a further $1 billion in U.S. military aid to Ukraine

Joe Biden, seen speaking on Tuesday, has approved a further $1 billion in U.S. military aid to Ukraine

Joe Biden, seen speaking on Tuesday, has approved a further $1 billion in U.S. military aid to Ukraine

Volodymyr Zelensky is seen in the early hours of Wednesday speaking from the presidential palace in Kyiv. Later in the day he will address the U.S. Congress

Volodymyr Zelensky is seen in the early hours of Wednesday speaking from the presidential palace in Kyiv. Later in the day he will address the U.S. Congress

Volodymyr Zelensky is seen in the early hours of Wednesday speaking from the presidential palace in Kyiv. Later in the day he will address the U.S. Congress

‘We’re moving urgently to further augment the support to the brave people of Ukraine as they defend their country,’ Biden said on Tuesday.

UKRAINE’S WEAPONS WISHLIST 

* More MiG fighter jets

* More Javelin and Stinger anti-tank missiles

* Bigger air-defense systems that can reach higher targets than Javelins

* Long-range anti-ship missiles 

* Improved satellite navigation technology

* Tactical military radios

* Communications jamming equipment

* Other electronic warfare equipment

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‘And I’ll have much more to say about this tomorrow about exactly what we’re doing in Ukraine.’

Senators and members of the House of Representatives of both parties have called for the administration to send as much military support to Ukraine as possible, and in his virtual address to Congress on Wednesday Zelensky is expected to appeal to that support.

A group of Republicans on Tuesday night wrote to to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the White House to use $3 billion in emergency military aid recently approved by Congress ‘without delay.’

‘As the invasion drags on, Russia will reorganize, resupply, consolidate its forces, and modify its tactics in an attempt to violently accelerate its advances,’ they wrote.

‘Ukrainian forces will likely have to expend munitions from these and other weapons at an increasing rate — meaning the need for restocking will only grow more urgent with each passing day.’

Two European diplomats told The New York Times that Zelensky has a ‘wish list’ of material to request from the U.S.

In addition to more Javelins and Stingers, which have already been supplied in large quantities, Zelensky is said to want armed drones and communication jamming equipment.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said last week that the U.S. was committed to equipping Ukraine with ‘the kinds of capabilities that we know the Ukrainians need and are using very well.’

He said that the U.S. was also helping coordinate requests with other NATO members.

‘Some of that material we have and are providing. Some of that material we don’t have but we know others have, and we’re helping coordinate that, as well,’ he said.

NBC News was in December shown the Switchblade 300 in action, and showed how it had been used in Azerbaijan

NBC News was in December shown the Switchblade 300 in action, and showed how it had been used in Azerbaijan

NBC News was in December shown the Switchblade 300 in action, and showed how it had been used in Azerbaijan

The Switchblade is popular because it is lightweight, comparatively cheap, and easy to deploy

The Switchblade is popular because it is lightweight, comparatively cheap, and easy to deploy

The Switchblade is popular because it is lightweight, comparatively cheap, and easy to deploy

U.S. officials are said to be keen to focus on weapons they believe can make a difference quickly, and dodge the thorny issue of fighter jets.

Poland had proposed giving its fighter jets to the U.S. to hand to Ukraine, with the U.S. replacing the Polish ones, but the Pentagon has ruled out such a deal, insisting it would put NATO at risk of becoming a Russian target.

Ukraine is expected to ask instead for bigger mobile air-defense systems that can hit aircraft flying at higher altitudes than Stingers can reach.

Russian bombers launched the missile attack that killed more than 35 people at a Ukrainian military training center on Sunday.

The Ukrainians are also seeking long-range, anti-ship missiles, amid continued fears of an amphibious assault on the coastal city of Odessa.

And they are seeking improved satellite navigation technology, tactical military radios, communications jamming equipment and other electronic warfare equipment.

The administration has previously tried to avoid delivering weapons that feature sensitive technology, because it could either fall into the hands of Russian troops or prove impractical when Ukrainian forces need equipment that can quickly be placed into action with a minimum of training.

The Ukrainians are also looking for controllers for drones.

Wahid Nawabi, AeroVironment’s Afghan-born CEO, told NBC News in December that the Switchblade drones had the potential to revolutionize conflict.

They have already been used by the U.S. in Afghanistan, but Britain is the only other country to possess them.

‘It allows our warfighter to have a battlefield superiority, which our enemies can’t see, can’t hear, can’t tell it’s coming, and really precisely achieve a specific mission effect,’ said Nawabi.

Source: DailyMail

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