Ka-52 is no longer Leopard’s biggest threat, the ZALA Lancet is

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Russia’s Lancet-3 drones appear to be targeting Ukraine’s Leopard 2 tanks, as seen in recent social media videos. Previously, Ukraine’s Leopard damages were blamed on artillery fire, guided missile strikes, or abandonment during combat. 

Photo credit: YouTube

These videos usually show the drones attacking the tanks, followed by aerial footage of the strike’s aftermath. It is assumed that the tanks, though not totally destroyed, were heavily damaged, affecting their future involvement in operations.

Devastating weapon

The Lancet-3 has been a devastating weapon since the war began in February 2022, responsible for destroying nearly half of NATO and US artillery systems. It has been used mostly for counter-battery warfare, destroying artillery, radars, missile batteries, and small naval vessels. 

Videos have shown the Lancet-3 attacking Leopard tanks, with the drone’s X-shaped wings clearly visible. After impact, small explosions and fires can often be seen, eventually leading to a large explosion if the ammunition inside is ignited. 

Reports suggest that the drones have severely damaged the tanks, making them unfit for combat. Other videos show a Lancet hitting a tank’s barrel, which could potentially trigger an explosion if it reaches the ammunition inside. 

The counteroffensive is failing for now

Despite Ukraine’s efforts, their counteroffensive has been largely unsuccessful. Russia maintains a cautious vigilance, aware of any opportunity for Ukraine to retaliate. 

Video screenshots

Ukraine’s counteroffensive relied heavily on Leopard tanks and American Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, along with other US and Australian tactical vehicles. However, they heavily depend on Western aid for their artillery, tanks, and air force. 

Ukraine is expected to gain significant aerial capabilities in the next year. However, these non-indigenous additions may still be vulnerable to Russia’s advanced air defenses.

What makes Lancet a game-changer?

Concern Kalashnikov, the overseers of ZALA Aero Group, creators of the Lancet drones, have redefined warfare with the Lancet-3. Its warhead is a departure not only from its predecessor, Lancet-1 but also from Iran’s Shahed-136 drones. This distinctive feature makes Shaheds more suited to infrastructure targets, leaving armored foes to the Lancet-3. 

Photo credit: Zala Aero

The Russian’s choice of weapon against the Leopard 2A6 tanks is the Lancet-3, and it’s all down to the warhead. The MTOW or high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead of the Lancet-3 is specifically designed to target and penetrate high-value military assets like tanks. 

Reports suggest that the warhead functions similarly to anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM). The Lancet-3 detonates just before hitting the target, firing an armor-penetrating round. The attack mode of the Lancet-3 involves a high-explosive fragmentation or thermobaric warhead. Notably, the speed of the drone amplifies almost threefold during its descent towards the target, enabling the Lancet-3 to smash its ATGM warhead into the Leopard 2A6 armor at 300 km/h. 

Another notable factor in the Lancet-3’s triumph over the German 2A6 tanks is its aiming system. Reports from March this year suggest that Lancet-3 now employs a cutting-edge EO guidance system. 

Lancet: a proven force

The Lancet-3’s superior performance against Leopard tanks compared to the Lancet-1 proves an often-debated point. The Leopard 2A6’s armor is considerably stronger than previous models and a vast majority of Soviet tank designs. 

Video screenshot

As we have previously discussed, the armor of the destroyed German tanks will be a significant area of study when they are retrieved from the Russian rear in eastern Ukraine. The German Leopards’ armor, constructed from a variety of composite materials, differs substantially from Russian models.

The new Lancet looks set to be an even bigger threat

Russia has reportedly tripled its production of Lancet kamikaze drones and is advancing the model into the Izdelie 53. These drones are designed to work in swarms, identifying and attacking targets in a coordinated manner. 

The new drones were unveiled on Rossiya 1, a national television network. The presentation highlighted the drone’s stealth capabilities and precision strikes. 

The drones are produced in a facility that was transformed from a shopping center into a state-of-the-art production plant in just eight weeks. The facility also produces drones for surveying and protecting Russia’s gas fields and includes a training center for drone pilots. 

Video screenshot

The upgraded Lancet model has been re-designed and is described as autonomous, able to share information and perform mapping en route to targets. Despite suggestions by a Forbes article, the Lancet operates based on mathematical algorithms, not artificial intelligence.

About Lancet

The Russian Lancet drone, also known as the ZALA Lancet, is a small unmanned aerial vehicle [UAV] designed for reconnaissance and surveillance missions. It has a wingspan of 1.6 meters and a length of 1.2 meters, with a maximum takeoff weight of 5.5 kilograms.

The drone is equipped with a high-resolution camera that can capture both photo and video footage, as well as a thermal imaging camera for night vision capabilities. The Lancet has a maximum flight time of up to 120 minutes and can reach a maximum altitude of 5,000 meters.

It is also capable of operating in temperatures ranging from -30 to +40 degrees Celsius and can withstand winds of up to 15 meters per second. The drone can be controlled manually or programmed to fly autonomously using GPS navigation.

The Russian Lancet drone is equipped with a warhead that is specifically designed for anti-tank purposes. This warhead is known as the Shmel-M. It is a thermobaric warhead that is capable of producing a powerful blast that can destroy armored vehicles and other fortified targets.

Video screenshot

The Shmel-M warhead is a significant upgrade over the previous warhead used by the Lancet drone, which was a standard high-explosive anti-tank [HEAT] warhead. The thermobaric technology used in the Shmel-M warhead allows for a more powerful and efficient explosion, making it a much more effective weapon against armored targets.


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