Chinese UAV & UCAV development


supersnoop

Junior Member
Registered Member
These drone swarm concepts seem neat in concept, but I'm still not sure how they make sense economically.
The cost of one drone must still be in the $1000's minimum if they are to carry any sort of meaningful payload.
One 30mm round is maybe $100 tops? I doubt they would be agile enough to avoid even a few shots from an autocannon with proximity bursting ammo.
 
These drone swarm concepts seem neat in concept, but I'm still not sure how they make sense economically.
The cost of one drone must still be in the $1000's minimum if they are to carry any sort of meaningful payload.
One 30mm round is maybe $100 tops? I doubt they would be agile enough to avoid even a few shots from an autocannon with proximity bursting ammo.
Let's say they're $10K each. A truck-load is $480K with 48 of them. 5 truck-loads is is $2.4M and they launch 240 drones. 10 truck-loads is $4.8M and 480 drones. If they're enough to overload target defenses and the autocannons can't take enough of them out, the ones that strike can incapacitate (at the most critical moment) or destroy a target that cost hundreds of millions or over a billion dollars.
 

steel21

Just Hatched
Registered Member
Let's say they're $10K each. A truck-load is $480K with 48 of them. 5 truck-loads is is $2.4M and they launch 240 drones. 10 truck-loads is $4.8M and 480 drones. If they're enough to overload target defenses and the autocannons can't take enough of them out, the ones that strike can incapacitate (at the most critical moment) or destroy a target that cost hundreds of millions or over a billion dollars.
Exactly, this is not a one for one trade off.

On top of that the drone has a much longer range and standoff from AA round. The AA round will also need to be guided and manned. If the attack happens at night, the number of rounds expanded in order to destroy a single drone quickly mounts.

Lastly, there attacker will always has a advantage of initiative. Hence, the radar/optical operator needs to be manned 24/7, while the drone operator can choose the time of engagement.

Once all these factors are tallied in, the drone is likely 1/100 the cost of the defensive system in total gear, logistics and personnel.
 

supersnoop

Junior Member
Registered Member
Let's say they're $10K each. A truck-load is $480K with 48 of them. 5 truck-loads is is $2.4M and they launch 240 drones. 10 truck-loads is $4.8M and 480 drones. If they're enough to overload target defenses and the autocannons can't take enough of them out, the ones that strike can incapacitate (at the most critical moment) or destroy a target that cost hundreds of millions or over a billion dollars.
Hundreds of millions/billion would be like a Navy ship. I don’t think drone swarm is capable of penetrating air defences of something like 054A.

Exactly, this is not a one for one trade off.

On top of that the drone has a much longer range and standoff from AA round. The AA round will also need to be guided and manned. If the attack happens at night, the number of rounds expanded in order to destroy a single drone quickly mounts.

Lastly, there attacker will always has a advantage of initiative. Hence, the radar/optical operator needs to be manned 24/7, while the drone operator can choose the time of engagement.

Once all these factors are tallied in, the drone is likely 1/100 the cost of the defensive system in total gear, logistics and personnel.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think drone swarm is stupid. However, similar to something I was thinking in the laser thread, I think we are still like 10 years away from drone swarms being effective.

For example, in the scenario above, what is the range of one drone? CH-901 has range of 10km, less than a typical 122mm gun. 122mm gun can be mounted on that same vehicle, if you add in an auto loader or something, you probably can do more damage, while more difficult to intercept, and only requiring marginally more manpower.
 
Hundreds of millions/billion would be like a Navy ship. I don’t think drone swarm is capable of penetrating air defences of something like 054A.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think drone swarm is stupid. However, similar to something I was thinking in the laser thread, I think we are still like 10 years away from drone swarms being effective.

For example, in the scenario above, what is the range of one drone? CH-901 has range of 10km, less than a typical 122mm gun. 122mm gun can be mounted on that same vehicle, if you add in an auto loader or something, you probably can do more damage, while more difficult to intercept, and only requiring marginally more manpower.
I don't know what the range is. If it's 10km, that's not useful against a ship when launched from a truck; it would have to swarm out of a missile to be useful. But if it had sufficient range, I read somewhere that even moving at a mere 200mph in a ballistic trajectory, it would not take too many drones at once to overwhelm the defenses of a Burke. No, I don't have the source but it was and American article. Obviously, these little guys can't sink a destroyer but one through the command room or into the main radar and the damage it causes would be well worth it. Other than that, I can see these being sent on an enemy supply lane or descend on a camp at night.
 

no_name

Major
Given advances in satellite navigation and terrain mapping, think about the implication of trying to counter drones that can hug a couple meters or even much less above ground level.

Or drones that can be pre-deployed to very precise positions as intelligent mines prior of enemy passing through.

Drones than can be used to harass, delay enemy advances to cover for a retreat.

Drones landing on top of hills/vantage points beforehand, using cameras to recon passage points while remaining low observable themselves, not needing food or water and not getting tired.

Cheap but fast drones carrying radar reflectors to make enemy waste expensive long range SAMs. While real jets hang behind waiting for opportunities to go for the kill.
 
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plawolf

Brigadier
The biggest advantage to using drone swarms over conventional weaponry like artillery and missiles are:

detectably
drones are small, slow, emit low heat signatures, made mostly of plastic and can be ultra low flying. Trying to detect them at anything like a decent range would be difficult to impossible depending on the conditions on the ground.

Conventional artillery and missiles can be detected much further out, giving the target more response time.

Countermeasures available
Few nations other than China have much in the way of viable counter drone systems available. Hand held drone jammers are few and far between, and designed to counter commercial drones. How effective they are against military drones with hardened electronic and counter jamming capabilities remains to be seen.

Conventional weapon systems would also have a hard time effectively engaging drones give the above mentioned detection issues and the sheer manoeuvrability of drones.

Accuracy and control of the drones
With a drone swarm, you can specifically pick priority targets to kill almost up to the last second before impact. That means you can make sure that the most important targets are taken out. With a drone swarm, you also have instant kill confirmation up to the last drone in the swarm. That way you can be sure what needs to die is dead, allowing you to immediately move forward with battle plans without needing to waste time doing damage assessments with other assets after the attack.

Flexibility of deployment
These drone swarms are best used in urban areas to pick out enemy military assets hiding in civilian areas. You can accurately pick off large numbers of enemy military assets hiding with minimal risk to nearby civilians that would be impossible to achieve with a conventional missile or artillery barrage.
 

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