These, in the form of missile-carrying Bayraktar tb2 drones from Turkey, helped Ukraine mount its defence in the early phases of the war.
But they are the size of light aircraft and need considerable supporting infrastructure, such as runways and refuelling facilities.
A Switchblade, by contrast, can be carried around in a backpack (it is about the size of a baguette) and deployed whenever needed.
It is also cheaper, far easier to distribute and can be used with minimal training.
Though thousands of Switchblades have been used in action by American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan since their introduction in 2011, they have until now flown under the metaphorical as well as the physical radar.
No video has been released of them in combat.
And they have been exported only to Britain, probably America’s most trusted ally.
Ukraine, however, is well prepared to use them.
Its military planners realised some time ago that loitering munitions could be an effective equaliser for a smallish country threatened by a large neighbour.
In 2017 the government signed a deal with wb Group, a Polish electronics company, to buy supplies of its catapult-launched Warmate loiterer, which has a weight of 5.3kg and a range of 15km—though legal problems interfered with its planned deployment last year, and whether it is now in use is not public information.
Nevertheless, in December the defence ministry announced that dedicated loitering-munition units would be formed within Ukraine’s army, to act as parts of “brigades of the future”.
On top of all this, several Ukrainian firms are developing loiterers.
The most advanced project is run by Athlon Avia, one of many enterprises which sprang up to aid the armed forces before, during and after the Crimean crisis of 2014.
Since then, Athlon has become a full-fledged drone-maker, and one of its products, the st-35, is a loitering munition.
This weapon passed flight tests with the Ukrainian army in 2020—though whether it has yet been deployed has not been announced.
The st-35 is launched in an unusual way.
Instead of being fired from the ground it is taken aloft by a multicopter drone which, after releasing it, then acts as a communication link.
That gives an effective control range of 30km.
Three other Ukrainian firms—Adrones, cdet and Cobra—are also working on the idea, and although none had a deployable system when the current war started, experience has shown that Ukrainian armourers excel at improvisation and at turning out usable products rapidly in difficult conditions.
Weapons which offer the potential of striking unseen from long range, whether supplied from America or from Poland or in haste from local workshops, are particularly valuable.
Their success may also give an insight into how important they could be in future wars.