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Study shows drones the cheapest, most effective in battle against Russian invasion

Ukrainian drones dropping grenades
Ukraine’s R18 drone. Photo by Euromaidan Press
Study shows drones the cheapest, most effective in battle against Russian invasion
Article by: Volodymyr Dacenko
Cost analysis of Ukraine’s weapons compares unmanned aircraft with artillery, also found the Javelin most effective on armored vehicles, though more expensive.

Volodymyr Dacenko, an analyst and former Forbes Ukraine columnist, has found that Ukrainian drones dropping grenades and small strike drones are the most effective way to destroy Russian equipment.

He compared the costs of employing various weapons against Russian infantry and armor. In his analysis, he incorporated data on the price of multiple weapons, the cost per shell, the probability of destroying the target, and the number of shots per unit required. Furthermore, Dacenko sought to assess not only the cost of utilizing various weapons but also their efficiency. To do this, he calculated a cost ratio, which he derived by comparing the cost of eliminating a single target with a specific weapon – to the inherent value of the target being destroyed.

Cost comparison for destroying Russian infantry with different weapons

Dacenko evaluated the target cost for infantry at $60,000. This represents the average compensation for a dead or seriously wounded Russian soldier. Dacenko compared the cost of eliminating a single target using various weapons, such as a Ukrainian drone with a drop-down mechanism, a heavy drone, a Switchblade 300, mortar, and artillery.

Dacenko concluded that Ukrainian drones dropping grenades or an FPV drone are the cheapest and most effective way of destroying enemy infantry. Utilizing a drone proves to be almost seven times less costly than using the Switchblade 300, the most expensive infantry-targeting tool in his comparison. Additionally, using drones (FPV drones or drones equipped with a drop-down mechanism) are nearly three to four times cheaper than using mortars, artillery, or heavy drones to take out infantry targets.

However, as Dacenko adds, the use of mortars and artillery on group targets in open terrain dramatically increases their effectiveness. But if the infantry is in the trenches, the effectiveness of traditional military means is drastically reduced. In this case, drones can have a much greater advantage.

Cost comparison for destroying Russian armor with different weapons

In his assessment, Dacenko also estimated the average cost of an armored unit at $750,000. In this context, he compared the FPV drone, heavy drone, Switchblade 600, ATGM Stugna, ATGM Javelin, artillery, and artillery augmented with the M982 Excalibur. While he found drones to still be the cheapest method for eliminating a single target, they may not be very effective. Their effectiveness may vary considerably based on the situation and impact location.

The Javelin shoulder-fired anti-tank missile is the most expensive way to destroy armored vehicles, but also the most effective. The Switchblade 600 – may be more affordable. The use of mortars and artillery on group targets dramatically increases their effectiveness. But hunting a single moving target is almost doomed. As a result, the Excalibur does not look much more expensive than classic projectiles, if we take into account efficiency.

Nota bene: therefore, it’s not surprising that drones have become a primary focus for fundraising campaigns led by Ukrainian volunteer organizations. Since 2015, Ukrainian civil society has also been dedicated to developing and producing domestic drones. The key benefit of this local production lies in the ability to continuously improve drones in response to countermeasures developed by Russian forces.

One of the most notable Ukrainian-made drones equipped with a drop-down mechanism is the R18. It played a pivotal role in the defense of Kyiv in early 2022 and even before the onset of full-scale war, and continues to be a significant force on the battlefield to this day. Every individual R18 drone undergoes rigorous testing before deployment to the front lines. Moreover, Ukrainian developers constantly refine the R18 to counter Russian electronic warfare and maintain a competitive edge in the drone warfare landscape with Russian forces.

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