There is a significant amount of footage circulating on Telegram and Twitter, showcasing successful lancet strikes against Ukrainian personnel and equipment during the ongoing offensive. What stands out is not the fact that these lances are being used, as they have been in existence prior to the war. Rather, it is the quantity of these strikes that seems to pose a challenge for the attacking force.
There are two variations of this munition: The Lancet One and The Lancet Three. The Lancet Three is the standard version, and there have been more of these in production, making them more readily available on the Russian battlefield. The Lancet Three can carry anti-personnel or anti-tank warheads and has a loitering time of approximately 40 minutes. On the other hand, The Lancet One is slightly smaller, with about one-third of the payload capacity and a reduced loitering time of around 30 minutes. There have been rumors about recent modifications to The Lancet that allow for a longer airborne time and a heavier payload. However, obtaining detailed specifications about Russian technology is challenging, as they are unlikely to disclose them. Thus, we have to rely on the information provided by Ukraine.
The effectiveness of these lance strikes depends on various factors, including the warhead type, the target being struck, and the level of protection the target possesses. Overall, this weapon system, like any other, has its pros and cons. However, recently we have seen it being employed quite effectively. Although there is more footage of successful drone strikes compared to instances where the UAVs were defeated through electronic warfare, shot down, or missed the target, there have been several clear instances of strikes in recent weeks. These strikes have the potential to destroy or immobilize the targeted equipment.
The question arises: why are so many lances getting through when this threat was already known and extensively used in this war? This points to the rapid evolution of drone warfare and the difficulties in countering these threats. The lancets are capable of traveling up to 100 miles per hour as they dive into the target, but their cruising speed is around 60 miles per hour. This means that if they are launched from approximately 1 kilometer away, there is only a 37-second window to identify and take down the drone. That is not much time.
There are capabilities available to counter this threat. Electronic warfare can be employed to jam the area, effectively denying access to drones. However, this method can be tricky as it may inadvertently affect friendly equipment. Other options include anti-drone guns, short-range air defense systems like MANPADS, and as a last resort, machine guns. Yet, in the chaotic context of an attacking force crossing open terrain under artillery fire, dodging landmines, and engaging in truck firefights, dealing with an overwhelming number of aerial threats with limited time to react becomes immensely challenging.
Traditionally, air defense assets would be positioned closer to the foremost troops to provide a blanket cover. However, in the face of these drones, this approach requires resources to be in close proximity to intercept them. This situation highlights the moments in war where technological advancements drive changes in doctrine. While I don’t have the answer, it is likely that solutions will emerge as this war continues.