As I have told you extensively in the past, armed robots are becoming standard bearers of (hopefully avoidable) future wars. The question is how long they will let humans decide what to do.
An Estonian company has partnered with a Singapore company to develop robotic combat vehicles, specifically a robot tank.
More and more companies are developing UGV, “unmanned ground vehicle”. Trivially: unmanned armed land vehicles. There are private enterprises and official government programs at stake, but it's unclear how quickly armies will actually be able to deploy a significant number of tank-like ground robots.
In recent months, news has come that Estonian company Milrem Robotics and ST Engineering of Singapore have tested a new UGV during an exercise held in Tapa, Estonia.
According to the Estonian World website, the new UGV is armed with a 40mm automatic grenade launcher and a 12,7mm heavy machine gun.
"Our armored combat UGV is one of the first in the world particularly suited for urban warfare scenarios," he says. Jüri Pajuste, director of Milrem Robotics.
Robot tank: the characteristics
The joint warfare system consists of the THeMIS unmanned ground vehicle and the DM ADDER remote station. The vehicle can climb gradients of up to 60%, and overcome water ditches 60 centimeters deep. Its maximum speed is 20km / h, and it is powered by a diesel-electric engine which, depending on the mission, can offer 15 hours of constant operation without refueling.
The combat UGV is configured for wireless control from a distance of 1 to 2,5 kilometers. The difference is in the urban or rural context (therefore more closed or open spaces, where transmissions are easier).
Fight like in a video game
The operator can control the system remotely from a mobile or fixed “ergonomic” workstation, combined with a graphical user interface for an intuitive workflow and better execution. The system significantly reduces the cognitive workload on the operator and improves combat performance. Practically an arcade.
The fleet is growing
Milrem UGV joins the growing field of robot tanks. The British company QinetiQ has deployed in theApril 2019 armed vehicles to provide support during a simulated assault by the Royal Marines.
In the US, the military has begun to develop a robotic armored vehicle that can replace some of the older combat vehicles. The first tests took place already in the 2017: An armed robotic M-113 vehicle provided cover fire for soldiers during a training exercise in Michigan.
What about Russia? Haste is a bad adviser
Russia more than most countries is in a hurry to deploy armed UGVs, but in a position of strong advantage over laser weapons, has wet dust on this front.
The desire to burn the stages has led to some serious failures. In May 2018 the Russian army deployed a Uran-9 remote-controlled tank in Syria: just a month later, the Kremlin admitted that the UGV was not ready for front-line use.
"Modern unmanned Russian land vehicles are unable to perform the tasks assigned in classic combat operations"said the senior research official Andrei Anisimov in a lecture at the Kuznetsov Naval Academy in St. Petersburg.
Sensors unable to detect enemies, blunt weapons, unstable movement, delay in executing commands. A total disaster.
Now the Kremlin is updating Uran-9 in an effort to fix some of the UGV's problems. But Anisimov believes it can take up to 15 years before UGVs are ready for "such complex tasks" as ground combat.