The Buzz

Russia’s Military Robots Are on the Move

Russian military and the nation's defense industrial complex are continuing to seek out ways to increase the use of what Moscow called "robotisized"- automated, autonomous and robotic - systems in the country's armed forces. Over the past several years, and especially with the advent of Russia's involvement in Ukraine and Syria, the nation's forces have been successfully using domestic and imported unmanned technologies such as surveillance and recon drones and unmanned mine clearing platforms, while its diverse defense industries are rapidly developing a wide variety of air, land and sea-based "military robots" to act as a force multiplier in ongoing and future military involvements. Despite limited numbers, Russia use of such new systems was successful enough to warrant real concern form America’s defense establishment, prompting closer reviews of Russian tactics using unmanned aerial vehicles and beefing up various US anti-drone defenses.

Russia’s robust military-industrial base, which for decades matched Western military technology across all platforms, has been working on developing policies, tactics and strategies geared towards most effective and efficient production, development integration and testing of unmanned platforms. Key to such work are technology exhibitions designed to bring together manufacturers, developers and decision makers to display latest achievements and forge new policy going forward with integration of such systems into armed forces One such event was the recently-held military-scientific conference “Robotization of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation," held in Kubinka Expo Center in Moscow on March 23, 2017. Nezavisimoye Voyennoe Obozreniea (NVO- Independent Military Review) publication, was in attendance, and walked away with an interesting overview of the current state of nation’s “military robots” and government-industrial efforts meant to support them.

According to NVO, “the goal of the event was the development of unified interdepartmental approaches to the creation and development of military and special-purpose robotic complexes (RTCs), and was attended by representatives of the Military Industrial Commission under the Russian government, heads of military command agencies, scientific research organizations, educational institutions of the Ministry of Defense, federal executive authorities and directors of defense industry complexes, along with experts.” Underscoring the significance that military robotics plays in current Russian military planning, the Kubinka event was headlined by Alexander Mironov, head of the Main Directorate for Research and Technological Support of Advanced Technologies (Innovation Studies) of the Ministry of Defense.

NVO noted that the exhibition featured 89 different technology samples from 30 organizations and enterprises, including scientific research institutes and higher educational institutions of the Russian Ministry of Defense. There were 20 various air unmanned aerial vehicles, 11 mobile robotic platforms, and a “ separate section of the exposition that was dedicated to marine robotic complexes, such as unmanned boats, underwater microrobots, surface and underwater vehicles

Not quite there yet

NVO recognized that despite interesting technology samples present, such as “Vikhr” unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) that counts among its armaments a small unmanned aerial vehicle for surveillance and recon duties, “the expo looked much more modest than expected and announced - only several firms exhibited their products, with many samples designed just for this event. Noting the lack of diversity in the domestic robotics market, NVO stated that “visitors and participants of the conference expected a greater number of full-scale, functioning robots – we shouldn’t count among those remotely- driven models of cars that can be found in every children’s toy store.”