Challenges facing Ukrainian drones: high costs and closed loops
Despite Ukrainian drones passing tests, their high cost compared to Chinese alternatives creates a complex problem. Mass production is essential to lower prices, but lack of orders due to high initial costs keeps this cycle unbroken
Defense Express writes about it.
While Ukrainian drones have successfully completed tests and earned the Ministry of Defense's approval in record time, they still face a significant obstacle: their price. Ukrainian drones tend to be more expensive than their Chinese counterparts, creating a problem.
One such example is the Ukrainian strike drone, Osa, by Pershyi Kontakt, which passed all tests a month ago. However, it's not alone, as many UAVs face the same issue - their price.
Ukrainian vs. Chinese drones
The price gap between Ukrainian drones and cheaper Chinese alternatives makes it difficult for Ukrainian drones to gain traction.
Valery Borovyk, commander of the Bilyi Orel unit, explains that comparing the price of a new Ukrainian FPV drone with Chinese ones doesn't make sense. The cost of a new drone will initially be much higher because it lacks the advantages of mass production, which Chinese drones benefit from after years of research and development investments.
This price comparison with Chinese drones serves as a benchmark for procurement. Government departments involved in buying drones face constraints; they can't justify purchasing more expensive Ukrainian drones when cheaper Chinese ones are available. This would be considered a waste of public funds and potentially lead to legal issues.
There's also a significant risk that Beijing will limit the supply of components to conflict-affected countries. Although this restriction might not apply to Russia, the Kremlin is heavily investing in drone production. Unfortunately, Russian developments are already posing a threat to Ukraine's military capabilities.
While the Russian approach may seem simple - pouring money into the problem - it's effective. The enemy is willing to spend vast sums, as seen with the $2.37 billion investment in localizing Shahed-136 production in Tatarstan.
One potential solution could be government assistance in expanding production. However, as Valery Borovyk noted, during discussions with the Ministry of Strategy and Industry, they were told to "attract private investors." This ministry's main role is to support arms manufacturers, like leasing production equipment. So, it's not about charity or direct funding but rather commercial conditions.
Borovyk emphasizes, “Focusing on assembling components from China in Ukraine is not a viable prospect. The real solution lies in investing in Ukrainian production, including engines, propellers, controllers, frames, and circuit boards. While chips and cameras are still challenging to produce in Ukraine, significant scaling efforts are needed to bridge this gap.”