Armed Ground Robots to Fight in the Ukrainian Conflict, Ushering in a New Age of Warfare

Ukrainian military shows off a new robot that can see action against Russian-backed forces next year.


It may be time to face the reality that some of our favorite dystopian tropes are becoming reality. Skynet has not yet taken over, but automatic war machines are here and about to get busy fighting. Ukrainian officials indicate they are planning to use armed ground robots in their conflict against Russian-backed forces next year. 

On October 9th, Ukrainian military and defense leaders demonstrated the robot that could see action first, the experimental Phantom, at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual meeting in Washington, D.C. It can have treads like a tank or six wheels and be armed with anti-tank weapons, grenade launchers or machine guns, reports Patrick Tucker for Defense One.

While armed unmanned aerial vehicles, drones, have been used for some time, fighting with armed ground robots has not been a common feature of warfare. 

The Phantom, developed by the Ukrainian defense contractor Ukroboronprom, can hit speeds of up to 37 mph and can go 81 miles on one engine charge. It even has a backup microwave-communication link which will work even if connection with its operator is hacked or jammed - a problem Ukrainian troops already encountered in their fight against Russian-backed troops. 

The Phantom can also be useful in evacuating wounded soldiers from the field.

“What’s interesting about the Ukrainian conflict is that it’s the Ukrainian side that is developing unmanned systems it thinks will help it fight. Phantom is one such machine,” said Samuel Bendett, a research analyst with the Center for Naval Analyses’ International Affairs Group.

Here’s the Phantom in action:

Russia has its own robots, like Uran-6, which have been removing mines and unexploded bombs in Syria. Uran-9, on the other hand, has been developed for combat and can see action in Syria. It weighs in at 10 tons and is armed with a 30 mm cannon, a 7.62mm machine gun, and and anti-tank rockets.

Uran 9. Image credit: "Rosoboronexport" press agency.

According to Sputnik, the Syrian Arab Army has used ten Russian combat robots in battle, leading to 70 rebel casualties. 

And who can forget Fedor, the gun-toting robot: 

Not to be outdone, the U.S. is also working on its own robotic fighters like the MAARS (Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System) robot, now in testing by the marines. It can be outfitted with an M240 machine gun that can be used to zone in on targets.

Lance Cpl. Frank Cordoba/US Marine Corps

MAARS can also be reconfigured to sport a 40mm grenade launcher. Its top speed is 7mph. The machine is not fully autonomous, requiring an operator to reload it by hand. Fully autonomous robots are also in development.

Ideology drives us apart. Neuroscience can bring us back together.

A guide to making difficult conversations possible—and peaceful—in an increasingly polarized nation.

Sponsored
  • How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
  • To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.
  • The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations.

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

Why a federal judge ordered White House to restore Jim Acosta's press badge

A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration likely violated the reporter's Fifth Amendment rights when it stripped his press credentials earlier this month.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta (R) returns to the White House with CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist after Federal judge Timothy J. Kelly ordered the White House to reinstate his press pass November 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. CNN has filed a lawsuit against the White House after Acosta's press pass was revoked after a dispute involving a news conference last week. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Acosta will be allowed to return to the White House on Friday.
  • The judge described the ruling as narrow, and didn't rule one way or the other on violations of the First Amendment.
  • The case is still open, and the administration may choose to appeal the ruling.
Keep reading Show less