Cost of Iranian “Kamikaze” Drones

I was watching Sky News (UK) last night. In one program (I am not able to now find the link on Youtube) their defense analysis, Professor Michael Clarke, stated that the new Iranian low-tech delta wing “kamikaze” drones cost only $20,000 (see: HESA Shahed 136 – Wikipedia) while the Russian SS-21s cost $300,000 (see: OTR-21 Tochka – Wikipedia). I have no idea of the accuracy of those figures, but Wikipedia does state that the cost of an SS-21 is 0.3 million, based upon this article: Over the weekend, Russia fired missiles worth about $200 million at Ukraine. Forbes&nbsp score; — It gives the cost of the various Russian missiles as: “…the cost of the X-101 rocket was $13 million, the Caliber was $6.5 million, the Iskander was $3 million, the Onyx was $1.25 million, the Kh-22 was $1 million, and the Tochka-U was $0.3 million.” Wikipedia gives the price of each HESA Shahed 136 as $20,000 to €50,000. Its two referenced sources are: Iranian ‘suicide’ drones: Russia’s new favorite weapon in Ukraine war | International | EL PAÍS English Edition ( and Financial toll on Ukraine of downing drones ‘vastly exceeds Russian costs’ | Ukraine | The Guardian. The two articles also state that Russia has ordered 2,400 of these drones, based upon a statement made by Zelenskyy.

The obvious implication is that Russian can fill the skies with these inexpensive low-tech drones, and even if 80% or more are shot down, enough will get through to cause damage. Is this the driver in the new Russian bombardment strategy?

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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One comment

  1. If you look up “German Limbach L550e engine price” you will find pricings of US$10,000 to 17,700 on Chinese made models. This seems more in line with the up to US$30k I have seen. But US$20k or 30k is still pretty cheap comparatively.

    Presumably GPS jamming is the long term solution for these cheapies. Or shutting down the GPS system. I am guessing that is what they are doing when they say they have been jamming them.

    “The calculations are in the box (right) – but the key point is that a hostile party, using an inexpensive 3 kilowatt portable generator costing around $500, in a used fibreglass-bodied cube van costing around $10,000, is able to completely shut down GPS service over a circular area 1.5km in diameter.”

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