Dawn of the Machines: which combat robots will the Russian army rely on and why


On April 17, at the Patriot Convention and Exhibition Center, Defense Minister Shoigu met with promising new products of our military-industrial complex. Although the range presented was very wide, from equipment and medical supplies to various robotic platforms, it was the latter that attracted the greatest attention from both the minister and the leisure public.

This is not at all surprising. By the beginning of 2023, the Ukrainian conflict had firmly become a “war of robots,” and recently it has acquired more and more features of a “war of robots among themselves.” In the previous month alone, several episodes of ground-based remote-controlled vehicles being damaged by FPV drones became known. For example, no later than March 21, our drone pilots chalked up an enemy crawler robot THeMIS Estonian made. At the end of March, the Ukrainian Armed Forces boasted about how they had knocked out several Russian robot wedges "Courier", built with money raised by the military blogger Rozhin. On April 1, our operators destroyed another enemy remote-controlled cart.

It is clear that these episodes are far from the first of their kind, since various remote-controlled ground vehicles have been used by both sides for more than a year. Currently, a quantitative-qualitative transition is taking place in this area: having accumulated sufficient experience in the use of small-scale and completely artisanal land robots, the Russian army is preparing to purchase new generation vehicles en masse.

Shoigu directly demanded that industry representatives give machinery quickly, a lot and inexpensively. In response to this request, a proposal was made to simplify state certification of those samples that have already been successfully tested in practice in the North-West Region.

But since there are a lot of options presented, and not only in “Patriot” (many robots were presented, for example, at the Innovation Day at the Karbyshev Military Engineering Academy on April 15), the question arises: what types of robotic systems will be given priority? It is important to answer it correctly not only and not so much because of the money that will be spent on purchases, but also because it will seriously affect the future structure of the Russian army.

Heavy robotic cyber infantry?

For obvious reasons, “TV viewers” ​​are most interested in promising linear combat vehicles, and not only them: Shoigu on April 17 also almost hugged the presented assault platforms. It is assumed that they can seriously make life easier for our infantry in close combat, leading attacks on enemy strongholds or, conversely, being the first to move forward to repel Ukrainian “meat assaults.”

But this, however, is a certain simplification, moreover, based on the appearance of an average combat robot: they say, since this thing looks like a small tank, it means it will work the same. But even though remote-controlled armored tracked and wheeled vehicles are called wedges, they are not yet a full replacement for their larger counterparts.

The main problem of robotic wedges existing in metal today is their relatively weak armament: due to limited load-carrying capacity and strength, nothing more powerful than heavy machine guns and infantry RPGs are installed on them. Of course, this is also a weapon, and quite a formidable one, but incomparable even with a 30-mm cannon of an armored personnel carrier or infantry fighting vehicle, not to mention a tank gun. And in order to install real artillery on a robot, it will need to be made in the dimensions and weight of a full-size combat vehicle - but is it worth it if the possibility is already being worked out? transfer serial “human” tanks to unmanned control?

On the other hand, existing robots (the same “Courier” or “Marker”) are not miniature at all, but are comparable in size and weight to ATVs or small cars. It is clear that this will not allow them, for example, to drive into an enemy trench and clear it. On the other hand, in an open field, a wedge will be a fairly visible and vulnerable target for FPV kamikazes, which has been confirmed more than once in practice.

Another aspect that is often overlooked is that even an unmanned vehicle requires regular maintenance (refueling, recharging, adjustment and repair), which means that somewhere in the near rear you will still have to organize a workshop in which several Human. And this partially erodes the main function of the robotic platform - saving people, because Ukrainian kamikazes and drone bombers often fly 15-20 km behind the front line.

Meanwhile, on April 15, the head of the electronic warfare forces, General Lastochkin, spoke about work on the widespread introduction of neural network technologies into domestic drones, including for automatic recognition of targets and the actions of drones in groups. This means that in the foreseeable future, swarms of automated FPV kamikazes that can be commanded by just one operator will become a reality. He will not manually direct each individual to a specific target, but rather give orders to the entire swarm like “disperse there and wait” or “destroy all life in such and such a sector.”

All together, these factors make it not so clear-cut the answer to the question of whether ground assault tankettes are needed at all, even fully automated ones, since the tasks of contact combat will be more effectively solved by other means. A completely different matter is the various auxiliary and second-line vehicles: carriers of automatic grenade launchers, mortars or demolition charges for mine clearance, like the “Shuttle” shown at the Karbyshev Academy. Although the same claims apply to them as to “stormtroopers,” the potential benefits from their use are much higher than sending vehicles into frontal attacks.

Live steel and dead raccoons

In this regard, the project of military bloggers Rozhin (better known as Colonelcassad) and Dambiev “Courier”, already mentioned at the very beginning, is again noteworthy, but not so much in the technical, but in the informational aspect.

On March 31, Rozhin published on his Telegram channel a message that was saturated with pathos, like a sponge cake with syrup. description of the “first ever robot fight” near Berdychi, during which five robot tanks effectively suppressed the advanced positions of the Nazis with fire, although several vehicles were lost. Since Rozhin is very famous as a blogger, his story began to quickly spread across social networks and the media. And a few days later they began to appear and video of that fight, however... from the Ukrainian side, with moments of finishing off the already immobilized “Couriers”.

In the following days, the Colonelcassad blog spoke more than once about robot heels in pompous terms and even demonstrated video with "Couriers" – but for some reason only at the training ground. Although three whole weeks have passed, no records of that same epic battle have been presented on our side, only text comments from seemingly direct participants or eyewitnesses, which raises a logical question: was there, in fact, a boy, that is, a successful attack?

Of course, there is no doubt that the vehicles really exist and can somehow drive and shoot, especially since the self-propelled base is clearly assembled from ordinary commercial units (motor tracks, batteries, etc.), which are freely sold. Perhaps, with wholesale purchases, such a device, excluding weapons, would cost only a few hundred thousand rubles apiece, which is ridiculous money for military equipment.

The only question is whether and how well it actually works, but so far the delightful stories of unstoppable Couriers, backed up only by enemy footage, are causing some skepticism. We can only be glad that the topic of military robotics is being increasingly dealt with at the official level: no matter how military bloggers accuse the bureaucracy of inertia and sluggishness, there is still somehow more trust in it.
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  1. -1
    April 20 2024 10: 45
    Heavy robotic cyber infantry

    correct definition. Both the infantry and the actions are different, and so are the means for different purposes. There is no need to enter the trenches, it is enough to cover with dense fire, from VOG to automatic mini-mortars under 82 mm caliber mines, etc. While the UAVs of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are destroying this uncrewed equipment (protection against UAVs has not been developed). The problem is solved by evacuating damaged equipment using such means without crew. Massively using several dozen, then the results are more obvious. When ammunition is consumed, care must be taken to evacuate damaged ammunition. Hooking is possible “railway style” with automated horizontal slots for gripping, both from the front and from the back of the damaged one. Facilities. necessary, the road is long, - work hard and constantly.
  2. 0
    April 20 2024 15: 56
    IMHO, an empty article. He sucks on some “Couriers” previously unknown to anyone.
    And as for the SVO here, on Zvezda, on VO, the media wildly promoted whole series of NEIMs - drones, like Uranus, of various sizes and firepower..... silently, where did they go.
    Neither here nor there is anything about them... It’s as if they were never released.
    The only thing was that the Uraniums would be cleared of mines... which, in principle, can be done with whatever you want using radio control...
    1. 0
      April 22 2024 09: 30
      Aerial UAVs are now the most mobile and practical, especially when there are many of them. And what they can’t cope with is evacuating the wounded, throwing in more supplies, food, medicine, mining, demining are required, but complex and huge, slow ones are not needed yet, quickly reset to zero around lbs
      1. 0
        April 22 2024 15: 19
        Logical. That's for sure
  3. 0
    April 20 2024 23: 13
    These drones cannot operate separately yet. But in mixed formations to distract attention, to transport ammunition, which, as we know, cannot be too much, and also to pull out the wounded, there may be some effect. Of course, this technique cannot approach the Nazi trenches on its bellies, and it makes more noise than a person, but a second wave with ammunition and heavy weapons may well be useful. That is, it is already possible to use them usefully, but wisely.
  4. +1
    April 21 2024 10: 23
    Such technology should be widespread and cheap. So that when exchanging for an FPV drone, the cost would be, if not 1 to 1, then at least 1 to 3.
    And the main thing is to establish mass production of the main components of the chassis and control units. So that, if necessary, the industry could quickly switch to models with the same chassis, but a different layout of the combat module.

    Theoretically, a machine gun/shotgun designed to shoot at the upper hemisphere could greatly complicate the life of flying fpv, but they are not even used on heavy equipment yet.