On the battlefield, there’s a new drone. It’s only been six months, but there’s still no video showing it in action. Unlike armed drones, which carry weapons under their wings, launch them, and return to base, the Switchblade “kamikaze” drone carries its own warhead and detonates it, destroying tanks, armoured vehicles, and artillery nests in the process.
“It’s a one-and-done drone,” said Wahid Nawabi, CEO of Aerovironment, which manufactures the Switchblade in a secure facility that he has requested we not divulge.
So far 700 Switchblades – both large and small — are being sent to Ukraine to be used against the Russians. “We understand what the people in Ukraine are doing. This is our part to help,” said John Aldana, the program manager for the Switchblade.
He explained to CBS News national security journalist David Martin why the Switchblade drone — a missile with its wings folded in its launcher – is called that: “It is small enough to fit within this tube. A gas generator can be found at the bottom of the page. The Switchblade is pushed forth. The wings immediately flip out once it’s clear of the tube, and it happens swiftly, like a switchblade.”
Cameras in the nose scan the battlefield and feed video to a tablet-based operator directing the Switchblade.
“Once it discovers the target, the operator has the ability to dive bomb the target and take it out,” Aldana explained. “This is a one-way trip.”
Switchblade-filled crates are already on their way to Ukraine. “We’ve communicated with the Ukrainian military,” Nawabi stated. “Thousands of them may be used. The type of struggle they’re in right now is practically perfect for the Switchblade’s abilities.”
He’s referring to the long Russian convoys that are coming closer to the battle lines. “Switchblade can literally take them out like popcorn,” he explained.
“Will the enemies hear it?” Martin wondered.
“No. It’s eerily silent, to say the least “Aldana stated.
“But you can see it if you look up?”
“I mean, it’s not simple, is it? On a table, it appears large, but when it’s in the sky, it’s difficult to see.”
“As far as I know, it’s never happened,” Aldana said when asked if a Switchblade could be shot down.
However, the Switchblade’s control signals can be jammed, and just 100 have made it to the battlefield so far. Nonetheless, the weapon has earned Wahid Nawabi (along with Vice President Kamala Harris) a spot on Russia’s list of sanctioned Americans.
It’s not the first time he’s had to deal with Russians. Nawabi said, “I was born and reared in Afghanistan.” “I left Afghanistan right at the beginning of the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan in the early 1980s, so this is very emotional and personal for me as well.”
He learned what happens when the Russian army invades your country when he was 14, the oldest of four children. “I’ve been there before. I’m quite aware of what you’re going through. In a matter of seconds, life is turned entirely upside down.”
He recalls how one weapon, the American-made Stinger missile, was instrumental in driving the Russians out of Afghanistan.
He told Martin, “I distinctly remember the Stinger missile.” “I witnessed the damage it caused to Russian helicopters. While observing from the ground, I’m sure I’ve seen a half-dozen of them get shot out of the sky with my own eyes.”
Now he wants his Switchblade drones to destroy Russian tanks.
“You can’t hear it, you can’t see it, you can’t tell where it came from, and then bam! It hits you all of a sudden, “he stated “It just makes your head go crazy: ‘Oh my God, what is this?’ ‘What is going on with us?'”