60-year-old ZU-23-2 twin autocannon hunts Russian Lancet UAVs

The Russian Lancet drones present a significant threat to Ukraine’s defense mechanisms, given their capability to target and obliterate even well-armored vehicles. Despite being compact and cost-efficient, their potential for destruction makes them challenging to neutralize, especially with costly missiles. However, traditional anti-aircraft machine guns may offer an efficient solution to this predicament. 

60-year-old ZU-23-2 twin autocannon hunts Russian Lancet UAVs
Photo credit: YouTube

According to ArmyInform, Ukraine’s 30th Separate Mechanised Brigade employs a ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft machine gun to counteract Russian Lancet drones. 

About the ZU-23-2 machine gun

The ZU-23-2, a massive 23mm machine gun, has been in use since the 1960s. Equipped with two barrels and a long belt of rounds, it can engage aircraft up to 2.5 km away. Initially intended for helicopters and attack aircraft, the ZU-23-2 has now found its niche in combating suicide drones. 

Characterized as a towed twin autocannon, the ZU-23-2 weighs almost a ton and typically requires a two-person crew – a gunner and a commander. Additional personnel may assist with tasks such as spotting, communications, and ammunition management. 

With an impressive firing rate of 400 rounds per minute per cannon, the ZU-23-2 can reach up to 2000 rounds per minute during short bursts. Given its dual barrels, the ZU-23-2 can cover a vast sky area, enabling it to eliminate even small targets like the Lancet drones. 

ZU-23-2 vs Lancet or Orlan drones

Currently, the ZU-23-2’s crucial role is to shield Ukrainian assault units from Lancet kamikaze attacks, Orlan reconnaissance drones, and various other unmanned aerial vehicles. It’s worth noting that reconnaissance drones usually fly at higher altitudes, making them the primary targets for Strela-10 air defense systems and Western weapons. 

60-year-old ZU-23-2 twin autocannon hunts Russian Lancet UAVs
Photo credit: YouTube

However, these reconnaissance drones can occasionally descend to lower altitudes, within the ZU-23-2’s scope to detect and engage them. 

In Ukraine, the ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft gun must remain concealed from drone attacks. Despite its simplicity and age, this weapon disrupts Russian drone operations, making it a high-priority target. As a result, frequent position changes are necessary. 

ZU-23-2 isn’t consistently effective

It should be noted that anti-aircraft guns like the ZU-23-2 are not consistently effective. Drones, with their high speed and small size, can be challenging to detect. Nevertheless, in the absence of man-portable anti-aircraft missiles, this strategy remains the best defense against suicide drones. 

Suicide drones pose a significant dilemma for Russians and Ukrainians alike. Is it justifiable to deploy expensive missiles, costing hundreds of thousands or millions, against such small targets? Conversely, these diminutive targets can destroy tanks worth several million or, worse, claim the lives of Ukraine’s defenders. While the ZU-23-2 may not be effective against modern jets, it remains a valuable tool in the fight against drones.

About Lancet

Russian Lancet drone kamikaze is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by Russia’s ZALA Aero Group. It is designed to be used as a kamikaze drone, meaning it is intended to be flown into a target and detonated. The drone is primarily used for military purposes, such as destroying enemy targets or conducting reconnaissance missions.

'Russian Bayraktar' - it is loitering Lancet that continues to reap
Photo credit: YouTube

The Russian Lancet drone kamikaze is equipped with a high-explosive warhead that can be detonated upon impact. It is also equipped with a camera that allows the operator to view the target and guide the drone to its intended destination. The drone can be controlled remotely or can be programmed to fly autonomously.

The technical characteristics of the Russian Lancet drone kamikaze include a maximum speed of 130 km/h, a flight time of up to 30 minutes, and a range of up to 40 km. It has a wingspan of 1.8 meters and weighs approximately 5 kg. The drone is powered by an electric motor and can be launched from a variety of platforms, including a launcher, or by hand.

Why is Lancet a game-changer in modern warfare?

Under the stewardship of Concern Kalashnikov, ZALA Aero Group has revolutionized the face of battle with the creation of Lancet drones, particularly the Lancet-3. This drone’s warhead significantly diverges from its predecessor, Lancet-1, and Iran’s Shahed-136 drones. Thus, while Shaheds are more apt for infrastructure targets, the Lancet-3 is geared toward armored adversaries. 

Lancet mutates into Izdelie 53, is made in a mall, production tripled
Video screenshot

When facing off against the Leopard 2A6 tanks, the Russians opt for the Lancet-3, and the reason its unique warhead. The Lancet-3’s Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) or High-Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) warhead is engineered specifically to target and penetrate key military assets such as tanks. 

Analysts have compared the warhead’s functionality to that of anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM). The Lancet-3 detonates just before impact, unleashing an armor-piercing round. The drone’s attack mode involves a high-explosive fragmentation or thermobaric warhead. Interestingly, the drone’s speed nearly triples as it descends towards its target, enabling the Lancet-3 to ram its ATGM warhead into the Leopard 2A6 armor at a staggering 300 km/h. 

Another contributing factor to the Lancet-3’s superiority over the German 2A6 tanks is its precision aiming system. As of March this year, reports indicate that the Lancet-3 is equipped with a state-of-the-art EO guidance system.

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