What robots are Russia and Ukraine using on the battlefield?
KYIV/MOSCOW, UKRAINE/RUSSIA — The practice of conducting combat operations of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and Ukraine has shown that waging war is unthinkable without the widespread use of military robotic systems. We are witnessing a revolution in military affairs.
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At the same time, the West has become the main source for building the combat potential of the Armed Forces of Ukraine [AFU], including through such innovative systems.
Bayraktar TB2 and Shahed Geran
The war in Ukraine showed that Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 drones are not invulnerable. Russia has fully developed the technology for Bayraktar interception and fire defeat in Ukraine. Nevertheless, the Turkish method of waging war with drones has proven to be predominantly offensive and clearly economically advantageous, considering the ratio of targets hit and the losses of the UAVs themselves. The Bayraktar TB2 is a dangerous weapon system that represents a real combat asset to strengthen the eastern flank of the North Atlantic Alliance.
Ukraine, using Turkish drones, seeks to demonstrate the innovative capabilities of its military. The use of Bayraktar TB2 became a political act intended primarily for the domestic Ukrainian public. We recall that Turkish drones are “simple devices” that were intensively used in armed conflicts in Syria, Libya, and Nagorno-Karabakh, which ensured the development of the practice of their combat use.
The autumn campaign of the Russian Air Force in Ukraine has become a real gift for specialists in the field of unmanned aviation. Russian troops massively used ammunition and UAVs, which made it possible to obtain invaluable data on their combat use.
The drones of the Geran family [Iranian UAVs] have shown effectiveness and caused a lot of comments around the world. Iran’s drones demonstrated smooth attrition. It is still debatable whether there are more errors than the American Switchblade-300s, but both the American and Iranian showed no errors in target designation.
Estonian combat robot THeMIS
Following the existing arrangements, the Armed Forces of Ukraine are to receive the well-known tracked unmanned ground platforms [robotic systems] THeMIS, developed and manufactured by the Estonian company Milrem Robotics. The THeMIS robotic systems acquisition project for Ukraine received the “Kran” designation. Its initiators are the former president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, as well as the Ukrainian volunteer medical formation “Hospitalers”.
The first copy of such a platform was delivered to Ukraine in August 2022. It was planned that THeMIS would be used mainly for the evacuation of wounded from the front line and for the delivery of ammunition. The THeMIS machine is the launch product of Milrem Robotics. They have been acquired by the armed forces of 11 countries, including 7 NATO members [Estonia, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Great Britain, and the United States].
Although THeMIS complexes have already been used in the EU military operation in Mali, apparently the first attempt to fully use the platform in combat operations is being made in Ukraine. The Estonian vehicle, which ended up in Ukraine, interested the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. A reward was promised for turning in a copy of the robot to the department.
The platform sold to Ukraine is the base model. But if Russian specialists manage to study it, it will be beneficial, because in Russia there are many design bureaus and research centers that are working on the creation of unmanned ground vehicles.
Russian robotic platform Marker
The war in Ukraine changed the plans of the Marker developers. A version will be created, “sharpened” to fulfill the tasks of Russian operations in Ukraine. The Marker project will be further developed. The weight and dimensions of the platform will remain the same as those of the already assembled samples, but their functionality and capabilities will be significantly expanded.
Conditional Marker-2 will be aimed at least three tasks: protection, liquidation of the consequences of emergency situations, as well as conducting auxiliary work in combat conditions, taking into account the needs of the troops identified during the special operation. The enterprises participating in the collaboration for this project and the weapon systems that will be installed on Marker-2 are now being determined. The robot will be designed to work both in an urban environment and in the front area.
In addition, three Markers have already been handed over to the specialists of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, who are now adapting robots for tasks of liquidation and prevention of emergency situations, including extinguishing fires of various types and complexity.
The Marker robotic complex was developed within a project of the Advanced Research Foundation. The platform has a mass of about 3 tons, and it can be equipped with various weapons. The development has advanced skills for autonomous movement in Russia with object recognition based on artificial intelligence technologies. The autonomy of the platform is provided by a modular multispectral visual system, data processing which is performed by neural network algorithms.
The Russian heavy robotic sapper Prokhod-1 was first used on the territory of Donbas in July 2022. The demining complex, created based on the T-90 tank, with the help of the trawl TMT-S neutralizes the minefields of the Ukrainian army. Videos circulating on social networks show how the robot sapper easily destroys mines. Mines tear under his trawl, and the armored vehicle does not even flinch and continues to move.
The robot is designed based on the T-90 tank chassis. A powerful engine with a power of 1000 horsepower allows you to additionally install dynamic protective containers on the robot. In front of the car, there is a trawl with rollers, cutters, and silencers for radio-controlled anti-personnel mines.
A feature of the Prohod-1 complex is the possibility of working in different modes: with a crew, remotely – under the control of an operator, as well as in automatic mode according to set parameters. The crew of the robotic demining machine is two people, in the back of the cabin there is a landing compartment for three sappers.
For self-defense, Prohod-1 is armed with a 12.7-mm machine gun and eight grenade launchers for deploying smoke screens. As tests in a combat situation show, a robot tank with a heavy trawl can develop speeds over 30 km per hour if necessary.
Sfera and Scarabey
For demining underground bunkers and underground facilities, the armed forces of the Russian Federation use the Sfera and Scarabey complexes. The robots have already been tested and confirmed their effectiveness in 2016 in Palmyra. Of greatest interest is the Scarabey complex, which in the form of a ground platform can easily move around any terrain. The height of the robot is only 15 cm, which makes it almost invisible to prying eyes.
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