15 January 2013, 18:06

‘Robotization’ of Russian army: euphoria can wait

‘Robotization’ of Russian army: euphoria can wait

The Russian Defense Ministry has announced plans on the ‘robotization’ of the army, Russian media reported on Tuesday. In the future, up to one third of military hardware of Russian Ground Forces will be replaced with robots. Some experts, however, question the necesisty of completely replacing Russian soldiers with robots.

Meanwhile, dozens of combat robots have already been developed in Russia. These include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), unmanned underwater vehicles (AUV) and many others.

Unmanned military vehicles first appeared in the 1930s. At the time, the Soviet Union started producing teletanks, remotely controlled wireless unmanned vehicles. Teletanks were equipped with machine guns, flamethrowers and smoke canisters. Also, they were designed to use chemical weapons. Technologically, producing teletanks proved to be a tricky task in terms of reliability which is why their production stopped at the beginning of World War II.

At present, ground, aerial and naval unmanned vehicles play an ever-increasing role in modern-day warfare.

UAVs are designed to deal with reconnaissance and target designation, while unmanned ground vehicles are used for mine clearing and launching attacks during life-threatening military operations. Meanwhile, the Oshkosh Truck company and the Boston Dynamics company are dealing with the development of robots designed to lend logistical support to the army.

Despite the development of sophisticated unmanned military vehicles, their combat capabilities are unlikely to ever be on a par with those of soldiers and manned vehicles due to robots’ restricted optoelectronic system. Another problem is the absence of a full-fledged artificial intellect, capable of swiftly reacting to rapidly changing situations. This prompts to use remotely controlled rather than fully autonomous vehicles.

Consequently, it is too early to speak of mass ‘robotization’ of the Russian army. In this sense, the main focus should be placed on supplying more military hardware to troops and mapping out more sophisticated drones, mine clearing robots and unmanned underwater vehicles to be used by ground and air forces as well as the navy.

Also, it is necessary to keep an eagle eye on the latest developments in the sphere of production of unmanned military vehicles abroad. Importantly, a concept of ‘robotized army’ is yet to be tested during real hostilities against an enemy possessing modern means of radio-electronic warfare. Some experts question the reliability of UAVs, referring to an incident with the US drone RQ-170 that was brought down by Iran in 2011.

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