Low-Cost Lancets: Russia’s Menacing Aerial Arsenal

The 17-month-long Russian invasion is escalating, and the Ukrainian military is increasingly concerned about a burgeoning threat: inexpensive suicide drones from that pack a punch well above their cost. One such unmanned menace is the Lancet drone, a grey, winged cylinder that has increasingly harassed 's forces in recent months, particularly endangering the nation's valuable Western-donated military assets.

Ukrainian artillery crews have singled out these Lancet drones as a growing danger. Bohdan, a 35-year-old artillery gunner, who goes by the call sign ‘Doc', shared his observations from the frontlines of Donetsk region, remarking, “Earlier, in spring, they were not using Lancets as often as they are now.”

Samuel Bendett, an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, highlights the Lancet drone's strategic appeal to Russia's defense ministry. Costing approximately 3 million roubles, or around $35,000, Lancet drones present an economical method to strike high-value Western equipment in Ukraine.

In comparison, the price tag for a single Russian S-300 missile or a Leopard 2 tank is hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars, respectively. Given the Lancet's kamikaze design, maintaining low production costs is vital for its viability.

Ukraine is not lagging in drone warfare either. Their UAVs, or unmanned aerial vehicles, are used as cost-effective tools against Russian targets, with drones deployed either to deliver payloads or as single-use loitering munitions.

However, Russia's increasing use of Lancets is presenting challenges. Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine's defense minister, admitted, “Every day we shoot down at least one or two of these Lancets … but it's not a 100% interception rate, unfortunately.”

Despite carrying a small explosive payload, ranging from 1.5-5 kg, Lancet drones can cause significant damage. Unlike the -made Shahed-136 drone, which is pre-programmed to hit its target, Lancets are flown by a remote pilot in real time. This makes Lancets especially effective against high-value equipment deep in Ukrainian territory, such as tanks, self-propelled artillery, and rocket launch systems.

Recalling a close encounter with a Lancet, a crew member of a BM-21 Grad launcher, who goes by the call sign Voron, shared his experience with Reuters, “We decided to flee … After about 50 metres it fell just to my right. It didn't hit us, thank God.”

Despite their destructive potential, Lancet drones, flying low and slow, confuse traditional air defense systems. Possible countermeasures include nets, metal cages, radar-equipped automated anti-drone guns, and electronic warfare systems. Sak emphasized that Ukraine urgently needs more of these systems from its allies to fend off the Lancet threat, as shooting them down with small arms remains a formidable challenge. The evolution of this drone war continues to unfold, demanding both innovation and vigilance on the Ukrainian frontlines.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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