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.

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  • That's starting to change.
  • New quantum computer designs look like they might be scalable.

Quantum computing has existed in theory since the 1980's. It's slowly making its way into fact, the latest of which can be seen in a paper published in Nature called, "Deterministic teleportation of a quantum gate between two logical qubits."

To ensure that we're all familiar with a few basic terms: in electronics, a 'logic gate' is something that takes in one or more than one binary inputs and produces a single binary output. To put it in reductive terms: if you produce information that goes into a chip in your computer as a '0,' the logic gate is what sends it out the other side as a '1.'

A quantum gate means that the '1' in question here can — roughly speaking — go back through the gate and become a '0' once again. But that's not quite the whole of it.

A qubit is a single unit of quantum information. To continue with our simple analogy: you don't have to think about computers producing a string of information that is either a zero or a one. A quantum computer can do both, simultaneously. But that can only happen if you build a functional quantum gate.

That's why the results of the study from the folks at The Yale Quantum Institute saying that they were able to create a quantum gate with a "process fidelity" of 79% is so striking. It could very well spell the beginning of the pathway towards realistic quantum computing.

The team went about doing this through using a superconducting microwave cavity to create a data qubit — that is, they used a device that operates a bit like a organ pipe or a music box but for microwave frequencies. They paired that data qubit with a transmon — that is, a superconducting qubit that isn't as sensitive to quantum noise as it otherwise could be, which is a good thing, because noise can destroy information stored in a quantum state. The two are then connected through a process called a 'quantum bus.'



That process translates into a quantum property being able to be sent from one location to the other without any interaction between the two through something called a teleported CNOT gate, which is the 'official' name for a quantum gate. Single qubits made the leap from one side of the gate to the other with a high degree of accuracy.

Above: encoded qubits and 'CNOT Truth table,' i.e., the read-out.

The team then entangled these bits of information as a way of further proving that they were literally transporting the qubit from one place to somewhere else. They then analyzed the space between the quantum points to determine that something that doesn't follow the classical definition of physics occurred.


They conclude by noting that "... the teleported gate … uses relatively modest elements, all of which are part of the standard toolbox for quantum computation in general. Therefore ... progress to improve any of the elements will directly increase gate performance."

In other words: they did something simple and did it well. And that the only forward here is up. And down. At the same time.

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