Multi-Pack Launcher Deployed for Switchblade.

Author:Magnuson, Stew

* TAMPA, Fla. -- The Army earlier this year deployed a new six-tube firing system for its Switchblade remotely controlled small missile, a company executive said on the sidelines of the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference.

The Army, Marine Corps and special operations forces have been using Switchblades for forward operating base defense for about seven years, Brett Hush, vice president of tactical missile systems at the missile's manufacturer, AeroVironment, said in an interview. Normally, when sensors detect an incoming threat such as a mortar round, operators have to run out, kneel down and fire back with a single-shot tube.

"You want to be able to quickly respond back to them," he said. However, that left warfighters vulnerable and took some time.

After launch, Switchblades glide or propel themselves toward beyond-line-of-sight targets using GPS, video feeds and a quiet motor to deliver lethal effects at a range of about 6.2 miles.

There is a nonlethal intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance version, the Blackwing, which can also be dispatched from the company's new multi-pack launcher. The system can be placed outside and remotely fired from the relative safety of a command-and-control center more rapidly and with up to six shots, Hush said.

Aside from allowing rapid firing of the unmanned aerial vehicles, it is enclosed and protected from the...

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