September 22, 2023

What is BAS-80? Russia’s New Kamikaze Drone Inspired by Stolen Switchblades


Russia is using a new drone closely resembling loitering munitions Ukraine has deployed against Moscow’s forces, according to a local media report.

The BAS-80, described by Kremlin-linked Telegram news channel Mash as the “Russian analogue” of the Switchblade 300 suicide, drone, is “already operation” in Ukraine, the outlet reported.

“Trophy” Switchblade drones were captured by Russian forces as far back as last fall, the Telegram channel reported, adding that BAS-80 prototypes had appeared shortly after.

The Ukraine war has spurred on drone development at lightning pace, experts say. Uncrewed vehicles in the air, and, in Ukraine’s case, the water, allow military forces to scope out and track targets, as well as filming and carrying out strikes through one-way drones.

Both sides have used this type of kamikaze drone to attack key targets. Moscow has deployed Iranian-designed Shahed drones throughout the war to zone in on Ukrainian cities and infrastructure, and Kyiv has repeatedly sent its “Beaver” drone to the Russian capital.

A Ukrainian serviceman flies a drone on the outskirts of Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine on December 30, 2022. Russia is using a new drone closely resembling the Switchblade 300 loitering munitions Ukraine has deployed against Moscow’s forces, according to a Russian media report.
SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. has sent an unconfirmed number of Switchblade drones to Ukraine as part of its tranches of military aid, worth more than $43.7 billion since February 2022.

Made by U.S. defense contractor AeroVironment, the latest version of the Switchblade 300 has a range of more than 12.5 miles and can fly for more than 20 minutes. “Weighing just 4 pounds, this lightweight, miniature, precision-guided lethal missile can be deployed in less than 2 minutes via tube-launch from land, sea, or mobile platforms,” the manufacturer previously said.

Videos shared online as far back as May 2022 show Ukrainian troops using Switchblade suicide drones to target Russian forces. Combat footage appearing to show the Switchblade 300 in action indicated the drone was “effective against personnel and unarmored vehicles,” but would struggle against armored targets, military expert David Hambling previously told Newsweek.

The BAS-80 is “unlikely” to cause significant damage to Western-supplied Ukrainian main battle tanks like the Leopard 1, Leopard 2 or Challenger 2, according to the Russian media report, which claimed it “will easily defeat light armored vehicles and groups of soldiers.”

The similarities between the BAS-80 and the Switchblade 300 drones Ukraine has been wielding against Russian forces “is not particularly surprising,” according to U.K.-based drone expert Steve Wright.

“As always with drones, the key differences are probably under the skin: what systems does it contain to allow the soldiers on the ground to specify its target, avoid the defenses and countermeasures that it will face, and guide it accurately to its target?” he told Newsweek on Tuesday.

The BAS-80 can hit targets at a distance of just under 19 miles, according to the Mash report. It is capable of flying up to 80 miles per hour. This comes in under the Switchblade 300’s reported top sprint speed of 100 miles per hour, hitting 63 mph when loitering.

Newsweek has reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry and AeroVironment for comment via email.

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