Loitering munitions—sometimes referred to as “kamikaze” or “suicide” drones due to their function of flying into a target to bomb it—have become a new and terrifying facet of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This week, Russia hit Kyiv with Iranian-made suicide drones in attacks largely seen as revenge for Ukraine’s recent battlefield successes.
But Russia isn’t the only country using these novel weapons. The U.S. has sent Ukraine a good deal of Switchblade suicide drones built by defense contractor AeroVironment. And now AM General, the Indiana-based manufacturer of America’s iconic military Humvee, recently unveiled the new model and it can launch dozens of Switchblade drones at a time, Task & Purpose recently reported.
The Humvee Saber Blade was unveiled at the Association of the U.S. Army convention in D.C. this month. According to Task & Purpose, the Saber Blade’s weapon platform is capable of firing 24 loitering munitions, accounting for 10 long-range Switchblade 600 suicide drones and 14 shorter-range Switchblade 300s. It can also shoot down incoming enemy drones with a mounted grenade launcher.
All in all, the Saber Blade is not just an armored Humvee of the kind that was ubiquitous in the War on Terror, but also a mobile suicide drone launching platform with its own anti-drone defenses. It’s not a totally novel idea—China has already tested vehicle-launched swarms of suicide drones.
As T&P notes, the Army is currently moving to largely displace Humvees with Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs) made by Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Defense. The JLTVs are more heavily armored and yet still highly mobile, adapting to the reality of IEDs and roadside bombs. Yet, as Kelsey Atherton notes in PopSci, the Humvee will still have a role in the Army and JLTVs will ultimately be deployed alongside thousands of Humvees.
While the future of the Saber Blade in service to the U.S. army is far from a given, it shows that AM General is keen to secure a place for its iconic military vehicle on the drone-blanketed battlefields of the near future.