The Lithuanian defense ministry signed an agreement with the US government this week to become the first international operator of the Switchblade 600 tactical drones.
Under a contract worth around 45 million euros, the Lithuanian military will be the only Switchblade 600 operator outside the United States.
The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) was the launch customer of the larger of two Switchblade kamikaze drone variants developed by Aerovironment. In addition to the US, the smaller Switchblade 300 is operated by the UK and Ukraine, with the latter expecting to receive the larger, more potent variant soon.
The Switchblade 600 offers up to 40 minutes of flight time with a payload capable of taking out heavy armored vehicles, including tanks. The drone is capable of destroying targets in a direct downwards attack.
“Aside from the United States itself, we are the first country worldwide to acquire the Switchblade 600 system. The drones are a new deployable capability that will allow the Lithuanian Armed Forces to destroy enemy tanks and other armored equipment 40 km away. Our armed forces has not had such a capability before,” says Minister of National Defence Arvydas Anušauskas.
Launching and control equipment is acquired alongside the drones, as well as personnel training simulation systems and a maintenance package.
The United States will also deliver a smaller and more lightweight version of the system, Switchblade 300, for the Lithuanian Armed Forces as well. This capability is planned to be financed by the US military assistance funds.
Lithuania signed the agreement after revealing earlier this year the start of a procedure to buy 35 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in the mini and small classes. The defense ministry expected back then to spend approximately 36 million euros on the project.
The drone purchase is part of Lithuania’s plans to invest over 1 billion euros in military equipment, which would be acquired from the United States and Germany.
Earlier this month, Lithuania also signed a $495 million deal for up to eight M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems.
In addition the HIMARS, Lithuania has beefed up the number of Joint Light Tactical Vehicles on order in a spending spree that has largely been spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.