The Russian forces are integrating advanced Lancet kamikaze drones into their arsenal, equipped with an additional camera module and dual tandem warheads. These warheads have the ability to penetrate overhead protective shields and Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA). The latest Lancets are also equipped with autonomous flight and automatic target recognition features.
The drone’s unique design, characterized by a tubular main body and distinctive wing root, has caught the attention of military observers. Recognizing the potential threat, the Ukrainian military has initiated discussions on technical and tactical strategies to counteract the drone, particularly when it is in hover mode.
There have been indications of enhanced Lancet versions in recent times, featuring improved engines, warheads, ranges, and tracking and optical technologies. Interestingly, these enhancements are not found in a single model but are distributed across various versions and production batches.
This suggests that the Russian Ground and Airborne Forces units may not all have the same drone variants. The distribution of Lancets could be customized based on the specific requirements of different Russian army groups and their operational areas in Ukraine, which could be northeastern, eastern, southeastern, or southern.
The upgraded drones pose a significant challenge to Ukraine’s defensive capabilities, as they can overcome reactive armor anti-tank grids and anti-drone nets. The adaptive solutions that were effective against earlier Lancet models, causing them to miss their detonation targets, are less effective against these new drones.
As per the Russian Telegram channel ‘uav_tech’, a new variant of the Lancet drone, equipped with LIDAR systems, has been spotted on the battlefield. This technology enables the Lancet to engage targets explosively as it approaches them, with its cumulative jet capable of penetrating the target’s armor. This significantly reduces the effectiveness of meshes and grids. Additionally, Lancets now have automatic target recognition, facilitated by neural networks.
The report also refers to an incident in mid-October where Lancets destroyed a Czech RM-70 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) and a DANA Self-Propelled Gun (SPG). This incident notably revealed a green box within the Lancet’s nose camera targeting data. Russian ‘military bloggers’ quickly speculated that the drone might be using automatic target identification technology in conjunction with a semi-autonomous flight system, a theory also proposed by the well-known Military Chronicles Telegram channel.
The mention of LIDAR by ‘uav_tech’ could refer to Light Detection and Ranging, a remote sensing technology that uses ultraviolet, visible, or near-infrared light to examine the Earth’s surface. While initially developed for geographical mapping and ecological studies, the exact military application of LIDAR technology remains unclear. However, it can be reasonably assumed, considering the claim that the Lancet can breach mesh shields and metal cages, that LIDAR’s ability to map various terrains and probe different layers of the Earth’s surface can also be used to measure the target’s proximity using laser rangefinders and optical cameras. This is evident in the improved Lancet models, which can detonate before making contact with the target, allowing the shaped charge jet resulting from the explosion to cover the remaining distance and engage the target, as stated by a Ukrainian source.
This suggests that LIDAR could detect the metal cage/shield protecting a tank or artillery gun, subsequently programming the warhead. In this scenario, the main explosive would ignite after breaching the cage or shield. “The cumulative jet formed after the explosion covers the final distance and strikes the target. This engineering breakthrough resolves the issues faced with anti-drone nets where previous drone models with shock detonators were often trapped and rendered ineffective,” added the Ukrainian source.
Interestingly, a recent image of a Lancet strike on a US-made Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) showed two distinct explosions as the aircraft approached the tank – the first occurring at a distance from the Bradley and the second upon impact. The impact and extent of damage inflicted on the Bradley are yet to be determined. However, it’s clear that the technology in use easily bypasses the anti-drone nets where older Lancet models often got entangled and were neutralized.