By CNN National Security Producer Jennifer Rizzo
There's a new drone on the block with a new mission - a suicide mission.
Part missile, part intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tool, the new drone locks on its enemy target and crashes into it, delivering a lethal attack.
Some are dubbing it the "kamikaze drone." The drone's maker, AeroVironment, is calling it the Switchblade. The Army awarded the company a contract worth almost $5 million for the system, according to a news release on the company's website.
The Army purchased "a limited quantity" of the Switchblade to "support an urgent operation," according to an Army statement.
The Army would not give any further details on quantities, fielding locations, dates and units involved "to protect operational security." Bloomberg News reported Wednesday the Army had already used the drone against Taliban targets in Afghanistan.
"The Switchblade is designed to provide the warfighter with a 'magic bullet,'" the website says.
The unmanned aerial vehicle UAV can be launched from a tube small enough to be carried in a backpack, according to the company. Like a Switchblade knife, once removed from its container the drone's wings extend from its body.
While it is in flight, the drone's operator can view the video it transmits at a ground control unit. The operator can identify and lock on a target, and then command the drone to crash. Even after arming the drone, AeroVironment said, the operator can call off the strike, which provides troops with "a level of control not available in other weapon systems".
"Switchblade provides a revolutionary rapid strike capability to protect our troops and give them a valuable new advantage on the battlefield," said Tom Herring, AeroVironment senior vice president and general manager of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems unit.
Billed as a "powerful but expendable" device, the Switchblade is a major change from the larger multimillion-dollar armed drones the military uses, like the Predator and Reaper. Those drone systems, which consist of four drones each, cost $20 million and $53.5 million respectively.
They are so costly and contain such a myriad of proprietary information and technology that U.S. troops often go into harms way to recover the drones if they crash.