RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The United States has been training Ukrainian soldiers in the United States how to operate deadly new Switchblade missiles that are being deployed in the battle against Russia.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke by video conference Sunday to Ukrainian troops at the U.S. Navy base at Little Creek, Virginia, who are now returning to their country.

The Ukrainian troops have been in the U.S. since last fall for military schooling and were given training last week on new drones the U.S. sent to Ukraine for the war with Russia, the Pentagon said in a news release.

The “small number” of Ukrainian soldiers were being trained on a Switchblade weapon system that has been called a “kamikaze drone”, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

Kirby said that Ukrainian troops were trained on the Switchblade system for a few days. CBS News reported that the troops could return to Ukraine and train others on the Switchblade.

Austin Sunday also thanked the Ukrainian troop members for their courage and service and pledged continued U.S. support and security aid, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

The Pentagon said the group was given some advanced tactical training, as well as instruction on patrol craft operations, communications and maintenance. The soldiers from Ukraine were being trained in Biloxi, Mississippi when Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Kirby said that all 100 of the Switchblades have shipped to the region and are on their way to Ukraine, if they’re not in Ukraine already, CBS News also reported.

The Switchblade is made by AeroVironment Inc., of Simi Valley, California. The weapon was first used in Afghanistan and a year ago a $13 million contract was awarded by the Pentagon to purchase more of the unique missiles.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke by video conference Sunday to Ukrainian troops at the U.S. Navy base at Little Creek, Virginia, who are now returning to their country. Photo from Pentagon.

U.S Marines were training with the Switchblade in North Carolina just last month.

The Switchblade was developed to provide small units the ability to carry a short-range drone-type munition mission. The weapon can fit into a soldier’s backpack and can be set up in just a few minutes. It’s only 2 feet long and weighs just 6 pounds.

Once launched, a Switchblade can linger in the air for 15 minutes, providing an aerial view of the enemy — a small bunker, vehicle or a group of troops, for example — back to the soldier.

The Associated Press contributed to this report