1,500 Russian Lancet suicide drones already used in Ukraine

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In the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the Russian military has allegedly deployed over 1,500 loitering munitions, informally known as ‘kamikaze’ or ‘suicide’ drones. This information comes from the Russian platform, LostArmour. However, remember that these figures might potentially be underestimated. The actual number of deployed Lancet drones could be significantly higher, considering that LostArmour’s figures are based exclusively on published reports of successful Lancet strikes. Any unsuccessful or technically deficient drone attacks are not included in their figures. 

Photo credit: YouTube

According to the detailed data published by LostArmour, among these strikes, 197 were executed using Lancets with advanced guidance systems, while 635 were geographically targeted attacks. The rest consisted of 133 assaults conducted at night using thermal imaging, 76 strikes on moving targets, 59 double hits [either with two Lancet drones or repeated strikes], and 21 instances where one Lancet drone successfully hit multiple targets. 

An interesting insight from the data suggests that a large majority of Lancet attacks, precisely 768, inflicted damage to military equipment without completely destroying it. The total number of fully destroyed military vehicles stands at 449. However, there were 179 instances of Lancet drone attacks where the outcome remains uncertain – the reports do not specify whether the target was destroyed or merely damaged. In another 107 cases, the Lancet drone attack was deemed unsuccessful, causing zero damage to the intended target.

Video screenshot

According to Russian sources, the Lancet was programmed to target 17 distinct categories. Most frequently targeted were the towed artillery pieces, with 342 attacks recorded. Additionally, 313 self-propelled Ukrainian artillery systems were subject to the Lancet’s onslaught. LostArmour data suggests, however, that only 94 of these were destroyed, while 163 were merely damaged. Lancet also attacked several other targets including armored specialty vehicles, lightweight armored vehicles, logistical trucks, anti-aircraft missile systems, infrastructure, infantry, and replicas of military equipment. As for tanks, the Lancet launched a total of 268 attacks, resulting in 36 losses and 175 damages. Interestingly, two tanks managed to evade the attack.  

Since the beginning of 2024, the Russian army has intensified its use of the Lancet against Ukrainian targets. LostArmour has reported a staggering 626 attacks, accounting for nearly 42% of all Lancet deployments in Ukraine. The subsequent periods of heavy Lancet activity were recorded in July and August of the previous year with 260 strikes. The first year of the conflict witnessed the least usage of the Lancet, with only 100 units used from February through December of 2022.

Details on the variants of Lancet utilized were also noted. According to LostArmour, the Lancet Izdeliye 51 was used 590 times, while the Izdeliye 52 was launched 395 times. The differences primarily lie in their size and the explosive load they carry. The smaller Izdeliye 51 carries a payload of only one kilogram [2.2 lbs], and has a Maximum Takeoff Weight [MTOW] of 5 kg [11 lbs]. On the other hand, the Izdeliye 52 carries a more substantial load of three kilograms (6.6 lbs) and boasts a 12 kg [26 lbs] MTOW. 

The Russian company ZALA Aero has developed a unique type of loitering munition system known as the Lancet drone, or more commonly, the KUB-BLA. This is a small, yet powerful, unmanned aerial vehicle built for accurately striking both stationary and mobile targets.  

Though compact – measuring only 1210mm in length, 950mm in width, and 165mm in height – this drone carries a 3kg warhead, making it a formidable force in its category. Despite its size, it knows how to make a significant impact.

The Lancet drone utilizes an electric propulsion system, enabling it to operate both silently and efficiently. This smart system allows the drone to achieve speeds of over 130 km/h. 

In terms of precision, the Lancet drone is equipped with a remarkable suite of electro-optical equipment. It features high-resolution cameras and thermal imaging systems, standing out by enabling operations in varied scenarios, both during the day and at night. 

Picture a drone ascending past 4000 meters – well beyond the reach of standard small-arms fire. This is the advantageous altitude at which the Lancet drone operates, expertly evading detection and sidestepping any clashes with enemy air defenses. 

The Lancet drone is admired for its substantial flight time of up to 30 minutes. This allows it to hover over targeted regions for extended periods. Coupled with its fast speed, this capability ensures the drone can cover large areas during its operation.

Significantly, the Lancet drone boasts a maximum flight range of 40 kilometers. This substantial reach, coupled with its speed and extended flight duration, enables the drone to capably target objects deeply ensconced within enemy territory. 

Photo credit: Zala Aero

However, LostArmour faces challenges in identifying the exact modification of the 428 Lancets. This difficulty could arise from several factors. For instance, the usage of Izdeliye 51 and Izdeliye 52 may be more widespread than what is currently known as LostArmour. 

Conversely, it’s also possible that the Izdeliye 53 has been used, which represents the latest upgrade of the Lancet. This enhancement was first reported in the middle of last year. Importantly, Russian production of Lancet kamikaze drones has tripled, according to available data. Furthermore, the Lancet drone has progressed to a new phase of development, transforming into the Izdeliye 53.

In an enlightening discussion with the Lancet’s chief designer, Alexander Zakharov, new information was shared about Izdeliye 53. This marvel of engineering is actually a multitude of drones that are launched simultaneously from a ground launcher. These ingenious machines are constantly in communication, charting their flight path as a hive mind. When one drone identifies the target, all drones in the swarm descend upon it. Based on accessible designs, the futuristic Izdeliye 53 is equipped with not the typical cross wings, but rather spiral wings – four in total. 

Video screenshot

Reputable sources disclose that Russian forces in Ukraine have started deploying the improved Lancet air munitions featuring an extended flight duration of one hour and a significantly enhanced warhead weighing over five kilograms. This is a noteworthy upgrade of at least two kilograms heavier than its base version. However, these sources have yet to confirm whether this refers to the Izdeliye 53 or the Izdeliye 52, which had reportedly been enhanced with a formidable warhead and fresh EO guidance system as of March 2023.

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