Special Report

Every US Military Combat Drone

Yesterday, two Russian fighter jets harassed and then struck a U.S. military drone over the Black Sea, causing the unmanned aerial vehicle to crash. The drone, American officials say, was conducting routine exercises in international airspace, and adds that the Su-27 pilots committed an “unprofessional act.” The drone, an MQ-9 Reaper, is a $56 million, 66 foot wingspan vehicle primarily used for surveillance and for strike coordination, and has been part of the military for more than 20  years. 

Out of the 23 types of drones currently known to be used by the U.S. military, five are produced by aerospace and defense heavyweight Northrop Grumman, which manufactures the most expensive drone in the U.S. arsenal: the $180 million, 131-foot-long MQ-4C Triton, a high-altitude, long-range surveillance aircraft commissioned into the U.S. Navy in 2018. It is one of two drones that cost more than $100 million, the other being the RQ-4 Global Hawk.

Referencing a variety of resources on military technology 24/7 Wall St. listed all known unmanned aerial vehicles currently in use by the United States military. The drones are listed in alphabetical order. 

Five low-cost drones on this list are produced by a lesser-known company, AeroVironment, a publicly listed maker of small civilian and military UAVs. Its drones include the $6,000 Switchblade 300, a 5.5 pound, 2-foot-long tube-launched loitering munition (meaning a weapon system that waits passively around the target area until it is located). Also known as a kamikaze drone, Pentagon-supplied Switchblades are being used by Ukrainian forces against Russian invaders. (This is how the U.S. is arming Ukraine.)

Five U.S. military drones cost between $10 million and $60 million, including the $20 million armed Predator reconnaissance drone manufactured by General Atomics, the San Diego-based private energy and defense company.

Five U.S. military drones cost less than $50,000, such as the Coyote, made by Waltham, Massachusetts-based defense contractor Raytheon. Like the low-cost drones produced by AeroVironment, the Coyote is an expendable tube-launched “kamikaze” drone, in this case designed to intercept and destroy small attack drones like one used by Yemen-based Houthi rebels against a Saudi Arabian oil processing facility in 2019.

Here is every drone used by the U.S. military.

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