The Russian military is increasingly relying on robots to minimize casualties in current and future conflicts. The defense industry has achieved technological breakthroughs that have made it the world leader in the development of unmanned ground-combat systems. This gives Russian soldiers a major edge on the battlefield. The Platforma-M automated systems patrol key infrastructure installations, including military bases for ground and naval strategic nuclear forces. Other Russian military robots are already performing important missions on the ground. Many of them have been tested on Syrian battlefields.
The Uran-9 tracked Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV), or remote-controlled tank, is larger than the others and is capable of the most difficult missions under combat conditions, in addition to its primary missions, which are reconnaissance and the fire-support of infantry units. Unique and unrivaled, this — the world’s one and only operational unmanned battle tank — is an example that illustrates how artificial intelligence boosts the capabilities of Russia’s contemporary systems.
This new “wonder weapon” has seen action in Syria. Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov, responsible for armaments and acquisitions, has confirmed this information.
The weapons system includes two vehicles to fulfill command and control functions and a transporter truck for moving the tank from place to place. The UGV can travel at a top speed of 35 km/h on highways. Its maximum cross-country speed is 25 km/h, and off-road — 10 km/h. The average specific ground pressure is 0.6kg/sq.
The armament suite includes a 30mm 2A72 automatic cannon, the primary weapon consisting of a coaxial 7.62mm 2A72 machine gun to engage ground-based light armored targets, four 9M120 Ataka anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs, two on each side), and 6 thermobaric rocket launchers (three on each side of the turret). The Uran-9 has been reconfigured to carry point-defense systems.
The auto-cannon has a fire rate of 350 to 400 rounds per minute and can shoot high explosive incendiary and armor-piercing ammunition against ground and low-flying aerial targets. The ATGMs have a range of 0.4 km to 6 km, enabling them to hit a tank with 90% probability. Four Igla-S surface-to-air missiles can shoot down low-flying aerial targets at a range of 3 km. In addition to this formidable suite of weapons, its smaller silhouette makes the Uran-9 harder to hit than any other platform of comparable lethality.
The system can take out any target from personnel assets to heavy vehicles and heavily protected sites. The heavily armed Uran-9 can provide backup for soldiers located in areas of contention.
The robot’s optics and targeting system consists of electro-optic and thermal imaging cameras and a laser designator. The fire-control system makes it possible to detect, identify, and track traveling enemy targets from a distance of 6 km during the day and 3 km at night. The drone can operate in either autonomous or manual mode.
The software is the hard part. It has been reported that Russia has already tested the Unicum software package (Skynet) that provides the artificial intelligence that allows unmanned systems to perform complicated functions on their own. Up to ten robotic systems can be guided, automatically distributing the information and assigning each mission to a commander . Any robotic system — sea, ground, or air-based — can be equipped with Unicum.
The software package can be used to coordinate the activities of the Uran-9 as a killing element and the Uran-6 – another example of Russian leadership in ground UGV technology. The remote-controlled mine-clearing robotic system can operate at a safe distance of up to one km. away, doing the work of 20 sappers. Able to survive mine explosions of up to 60kg of TNT, it searches for mines and unexploded ordnance in order to neutralize it and clear the way for the forces to advance. With a mine-clearing speed of 2 km/h and a maximum speed of 5 km/h, the Uran-6 robot can operate continuously for up to five hours, overcoming 1.2 m-high obstacles and crossing 1.5m-wide trenches. It can climb 20° inclines. The system did a great job clearing the area in and around the Syrian town of Palmyra in April 2016. Roughly, 19,000 explosive devices were defused.
Both the Uran-9 and the Uran-6 took part in the May 9 Victory Day Parade in Moscow and were presented to the spectators there as systems that had demonstrated their effectiveness in Syria.
Many nations are making efforts to develop unmanned ground combat vehicles, but only Russia has an operational UGV that has been tested under combat conditions, leaving the US behind. Under the direction of an operator working at a safe distance, the well-armed, fast, agile, and small Uran-9 is a real boon for the Russian infantry on the battlefield. The art of war is changing and so is Russia’s military, steadily building what other nations still don’t have — a ground force of unmanned tanks with formidable strike capability that utilize artificial intelligence to coordinate their activity.