In the realm of defense technology, 2023 witnessed the emergence of outstanding weapons and military equipment, each making a mark in its own right. Let’s delve into the winners across various categories, from the highly anticipated to the unexpected, and explore the effectiveness, scarcity, and cost of these remarkable assets.
1. The Most Anticipated: F-16 Fighter Jets
In the spotlight of anticipation for 2023 were the F-16 multi-purpose fighter jets. Officially announced as part of Ukraine’s defense strategy, the “F-16 coalition” took shape in July, initiating the training of Ukrainian pilots and ground personnel. However, the delivery, scheduled for the first quarter of 2024, adds an air of suspense. The F-16s are expected to bolster air defense, enhance precision strikes on ground targets, and play a pivotal role in pushing Russian aviation away from the front line.
2. The Most Unexpected: Gepard Anti-Aircraft System
Surprising the defense community, the Gepard anti-aircraft system, transferred from Germany to Ukraine in 2022, emerged as the most unexpected weapon of 2023. Originally decommissioned in 2011, doubts lingered about its relevance. Yet, faced with the mass deployment of Shahed-136 aircraft missiles, the Gepard showcased its effectiveness. Equipped with powerful rapid-fire 35mm guns and radar, it proved to be a cost-effective solution for countering modern aerial threats.
3. The Most Effective: FPV Drone
The FPV drone took center stage as the most effective weapon in 2023. Combining versatility and affordability, it could carry a range of payloads, including rocket-propelled grenades, and operate in the NLOS mode. With the capability to scout targets and retarget, the FPV drone presented a game-changing dynamic at an infantry level, all at an estimated cost of $500.
4. The Most Scarce: Taurus Cruise Missile
The Taurus cruise missile by MBDA Deutschland stood out as the most scarce weapon in 2023. Despite discussions and conditions tied to the ATACMS transfer, the delivery never materialized. Shortages in Germany became apparent as only 150 out of 600 Taurus missiles remained operational. Production resumption faced challenges due to the manufacturer’s pursuit of incorporating new technologies without government funding.
5. The Most Expensive: B-21 Raider Strategic Bomber
Taking the title of the most expensive weapon in 2023, the B-21 Raider, Northrop Grumman’s new-generation strategic bomber, soared into the skies on November 10. With an estimated program cost of $203 billion, this sixth-generation bomber is set to replace the B-1B and B-2. The actual cost per aircraft remains undisclosed, but the B-21 Raider is poised to be unparalleled in terms of expense in the defense landscape of 2023.