2,000 Lancets have destroyed 200 targets and damaged hundreds more

Thursday, October 19th, 2023

The Lancet loitering munition is a standout success for Russia:

While other weapons have performed below expectation during the invasion of Ukraine, this 35-pound kamikaze drone has proven capable of taking out a wide range of targets, including main battle tanks and parked aircraft, from far over the horizon.


After being used on a trial basis in Syria in 2021, the Lancet was rushed into full-scale service for this conflict. The first known use in Ukraine was in July 2022, some five months into the invasion. Since then it has been used in small but growing numbers.


At first only a handful of Lancet strike videos were posted each month. But this January, 22 Lancet attack videos appeared. That number rose to 62 in May, and 124 in August. The makers claim they are mass-producing the weapon at a new facility, so what we are seeing now is only the start. This growth in production is taking place despite the fact that the Lancet uses Western-made electronics, which in theory should be impossible for Russia to obtain.


The Lancet is launched from a catapult rail and transmits video back to the operator. Lancets are reportedly flown in conjunction with reconnaissance drones which spot targets and relay coordinates. The Lancet operator flies to the target area, visually confirms the target, and carries out the strike.

An electric propeller drives the Lancet at around 70 miles per hour. This slow speed makes it an easier target than a guided missile or other munition.

“Every day we shoot down at least one or two of these Lancets,” Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister, told Reuters. “But it’s not a 100 percent interception rate, unfortunately.”

Early Lancet attacks were all on static targets. More recent videos have shown hits on moving vehicles. This may indicate a change in doctrine or an improvement in operator skill levels.


According to Lost Armor, as of Oct. 3 there are 667 Lancet strike videos. Of these, 210 are classed as target destroyed (31%), 355 target damaged (53%), 48 miss (7%), and 52 are unknown (7%) . In particular, the heavy armor of tanks sometimes shrugs off the Lancet’s relatively small warhead.

This suggests that around 2,000 Lancets have destroyed 200 targets and damaged hundreds. That may seem low, but with each Lancet costing perhaps $35,000 and each target costing millions, the Lancet is extremely cost-effective.


By far the largest number of Lancet strike videos show attacks on Ukrainian artillery, both towed and self-propelled guns. As a recent report from UK defense think tank RUSI notes, Russian forces now use the Lancet extensively as a counter-battery weapon. Artillery is the traditional means of striking enemy artillery, but the long range of the Lancet, and its ability to seek out hidden targets on the ground, give it real advantages. Additionally, the Lancet operator remains hidden and will not be targeted by counter-battery fire.


Towed artillery is much harder to destroy than a self-propelled gun, even when hit. The latter is a tracked vehicle with a store of flammable fuel and explosive ammunition on board, either of which can be set off by a Lancet strike. A towed artillery piece, by contrast, is a more solid piece of machinery able to survive the blast and minor shrapnel fragments of a Lancet hit.

“The lethality of Lancet is often insufficient,” according to the RUSI report. “One officer also said that although he had seen his gun ‘destroyed’ several times online, it remained alive and well.”

This tallies with previous conflicts in which towed artillery has proven more robust to counter-battery fire. Crews may be injured or killed, but the guns themselves tend to survive and remain serviceable. In WWII, the loss rate for self-propelled guns was two to three times higher than for towed artillery. So many of the Lancet hits on towed artillery likely did not result in kills.


  1. McChuck says:

    Drones are the close air fire support we’ve been waiting for. Cheaper than helicopters, more available than planes, more accurate than artillery.

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