Russia is sending a BMP-3 Sinitsa robot to Ukraine for combat tests

Rostec CEO Sergey Chemezov, based on reports from Russian media, has disclosed that Russia is gearing up to conduct a trial run for a combat robot in Ukraine. The device in question is a BMP-3 infantry fighting machine, upgraded with a section that allows remote maneuverability. 

Russia is sending a BMP-3 Sinitsa robot to Ukraine for combat tests
Photo by Anton Denisov / Sputnik

The technology enabling remote control is named the Sinitsa module, a product of High Precision Systems, an offshoot of Rostec. Web-accessible attributes of the Sinitsa module can convert a manned BMP-3 to an entirely robotized vehicle. Interestingly, the module can be operated with a dedicated tablet-like control station. 

About BMP

Initially developed during the Soviet Union era, the BMP is a Russian infantry vehicle still in service within the Russian army ranks. Over the years, Russia has made several updates to this weaponry system with the BMP-3 being the newest modernized iteration. 

Since its official presentation in 2015, Russia has consistently commissioned BMP-3, padding up its military troops. It was only in 2020 that Russia sought international buyers for the BMP-3, seeking to leverage the ongoing Ukrainian war. 

According to Viktor Litovkin, a retired colonel and military expert, the robotized version of BMP-3 promises impressive battlefield performance. Litovkin clarified that the automated BMP-3 is not just your basic land drone; it is a sophisticated combat robot and quite pricey, too. 

Russia is sending a BMP-3 Sinitsa robot to Ukraine for combat tests
Video screenshot

Sinitsa prototype

In 2021, preliminary information about the prototype surfaced. The BMP-3, constructed on a tracked chassis, sports a UTD-19 V-shaped engine with a 500 hp rating. The robot’s manufacturer stated that the unmanned BMP-3 model could cross trenches as wide as 2.5 m. 

Rostech had previously projected the top speed of the robotic vehicle to be 70 km/h, and its 700-litre fuel tank could cover 600km before it would need refueling. The actual specifications are yet to be confirmed. 

In addition to a built-in panoramic view scope, the “Sinitsa” robotic combat module will be a part of the complex. The mechanized unit will be armed with a principal artillery of 100 mm and a secondary artillery of 30 mm, along with a 7.62 mm machine gun. 

Russia is sending a BMP-3 Sinitsa robot to Ukraine for combat tests
Video screenshot

Equipped with omnidirectional cameras, BMP-3 robotics will allow remote control operation. As per its Russian designers, the device will be capable of working autonomously, creating 3D terrains using data from extra sensors. It will also feature AI to assist with route mapping, alongside a surveillance mini-drone for reconnaissance and mine clearance. 

Sinitsa variants

It is understood, based on various Russian sources, that Russian military engineers have developed three variant remote-controlled BMP-3 models compatible with the Sinitsa module. Each model differs according to its function. 

The UDAR UGV, next up, is an unmanned ground vehicle fitted with DUBM-30 epoch armed with a 2A42 autocannon, 7.62mm PKMT machine gun, and Kornet-M ATGM, with a raised center hull. 

Following the UDAR UGV is the Vikhr UGV, an unmanned ground vehicle armed with a smaller turret. It possesses a 2A72 autocannon, a 7.62mm PKMT coaxial machine gun, and holds six anti-tank guided missiles, the 9M133M Kornet-M. It can deploy both ground and aerial drones. 

Finally, we have Prokhod-1, an unmanned anti-mine vehicle featuring the TMT-C anti-mine trawl and a remotely controlled turret with a 12.7mm machine gun. 

Anti-tank gun too

By inference, Moscow’s interest seems more focused on testing the Sinitsa remote control module’s abilities in real combat scenarios rather than assessing the performance of infantry vehicles. 

Another statement by Chemezov substantiates this; he mentioned that the 2S25M Sprud anti-tank gun would also undergo testing with integrated Sinitsa. However, no Sinitsa-endowed robotic Sprud has yet been dispatched to Ukraine, suggesting that the trial is likely to occur within Russian training facilities. 

Not all experts are on board with this idea, as evidenced by Litovkin’s skepticism. He argues that weapons like the 2S25M Sprud anti-tank gun are comparatively clumsy to handle, necessitating a human gunner for precise shooting. 

‘Computer screens war’

Military journalist and deputy editor-in-chief of Literary Russia newspaper, Alexei Borzenko, highlighted that while integrating remote control capabilities into armored vehicles exemplifies the drive to streamline warfare, it’s still too soon to talk about drones as various related systems are still under development. 

Nevertheless, Borzenko asserts that Russia, along with several other countries such as the United States, is actively working on similar technological advancements that reflect an increasing propensity toward robot wars. Poetically put by Borzenko, “Battlefields may someday resemble gaming realms, where soldiers do not directly engage, but man virtual armadas from the safety of their computer screens.”

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