The Buzz

Should the World Fear Russia's Robots?

The Russian military has deployed a special mine clearing until to Syria equipped with the Uran-6 unmanned ground vehicle (UGV). While the use of unmanned systems for clearing mines is nothing new for Western forces, it is an illustration of how the Russian military is rapidly catching up as it starts to adopt robotic systems across the board.

“The Russian military is firmly integrating unmanned ground vehicles in their operations,” Samuel Bendett, a researcher at the Center for Naval Analyses told The National Interest.

“Russian military leadership has been saying for years that the use of unmanned systems is key in saving soldiers lives- now, the use of Uran-6 in Syria is proof they are following through.”

The Uran-6 is the first operational UGV that Moscow has adopted for its own forces, but the Kremlin will increasingly rely on unmanned systems as time goes on.

“The Uran-6 is the first such UGV to be used by the Russians. There are other models they are working on that will assist Russian soldiers in dangerous demining missions,” Bendett said.

“So far this is the most practical use of an unmanned ground system for the Russians, since there has been no credible evidence so far of their use of armored UGV versions in Syria.”

But the Uran-6 is just the first step. There is a huge market for robotic demining equipment, which the Russians can sell their hardware to.

“There is a massive global need for demining technology and no doubt the Russians are showing the world how their technology can contribute to clearing mines and unexplored ordnance from world's conflict regions,” Bendett said.

The Uran-6 is a harbinger of the future. The Russians are developing far more advanced robotic systems including a formidable armored UGV that would fill several missions.

“It's also likely that the Uran-6 was a test bed for other UGVs down the line,” Bendett said.

“The Russians have been claiming that the larger armored unmanned vehicle called Uran-9 can fulfill multiple battlefield missions.”

The Uran-9, which has been shown off by Russian industry on several occasions, appears to be a fairly capable unmanned combat vehicle featuring anti-tank missiles and a automatic cannon. The new robot could be deployed as early as next year.

“The Russian military has been indicating that various unmanned systems should be fielded starting in 2018 onwards,” Bendett said.

The unmanned revolution is spreading across the planet. Eventually most advanced militaries are likely to field robotics.  

Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for The National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @Davemajumdar.

Image: Creative Commons.