Russia Just Showed Off Its New Robot Tank — And Confirmed It Was On The Ground In Syria

Military Tech

Russia has been on the forefront of building unmanned ground vehicles and last week the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed that their armed drone tank Uran-9 was tested in Syria.


The Uran-9 is powerfully armed with anti-tank missiles, an automatic cannon, and a machine gun. It can also be reconfigured to carry different weapons like surface-to-air missiles. Additionally, the unmanned vehicle is equipped with advanced optics and targeting systems including a laser warning system and thermal imaging.

While the deployment of the Uran-6, a minesweeping drone, in Syria has been widely reported on, little has been said publicly about the Uran-9, and military observers and analysts have yet to see it in Syria.

“In reality, [the] Uran-9 tests in Syria should have garnered major attention from all major Russian news outlets, given how proud Russian [sic] are of their remote-controlled tank,” said Samuel Bendett, a research analyst specializing in Russian unmanned systems at the Center for Naval Analyses. “Still, such tests may have taken place in secret.”

But the official statement is a clear indication of its use overseas.

The Uran-9 on display during a Victory Day parade in Red Square on May 9, 2018Russian Presidential Press And Information Office

RIA Novosti, a state-run news agency, quoted the Defense Ministry as stating, “The robotic complexes [sic] Uran-6 designed for mine clearance were well proven in Syria, as well as Uran-9, a multifunctional reconnaissance and fire support unit on the battlefield.”

It remains unclear if the Uran-9 saw combat and where in Syria it was deployed, but the area has served as a proving ground for advanced Russian weapons.

Since its Syrian intervention in 2015, the resurgent Russian military has battle tested an arsenal of new weapons including the Su-57 stealth fighter jet, the T-90 battle tank, ship-launched cruise missiles and air defense systems.

“As we helped the brotherly Syrian people, we tested over 200 new types of weapons,” said Vladimir Shamanov, the head of Russian parliament’s Defense Committee and a retired military officer.

While unmanned aerial vehicles have been widely deployed in conflicts around the world, unmanned ground vehicles remain largely untested and the Uran-9 marks a significant step. For instance, the United States, China and several other nations have developed drone tanks, but are still evaluating potential uses and how to overcome the platform’s shortcomings.

Related: The Maker Of The AK-47 Just Released Footage Of Its Robot Tank In Action »

With any drone, one of the primary goals is to minimize the risk of injury to service members. But unlike aerial drones—which can easily receive radio and communication signals from its controllers—a ground drone’s signal is often blocked by buildings, hills, or other physical barriers which severely limit its range. This requires an individual to be fairly close to operate the vehicle, exposing them to danger.

Furthermore, it is unclear how these systems will perform in hotly contested areas with heavy electronic warfare that could jam or hijack a controller’s system. In Syria, reports have emerged that Russian jamming has affected the GPS systems of small U.S. surveillance drones, disrupting their operations.

In the case of the Uran-9, it is remotely controlled by an individual from a mobile vehicle that must remain within 1.8 miles. The automatic turret is able to detect and acquire targets, but the ultimate decision to fire rests with the controller.

An Uran-9 unmanned ground combat vehicle during Day of Advanced Technologies of Law Enforcement in 2017Vitaly Kuzmin

This philosophy closely matches the U.S. military’s approach to lethal unmanned systems, which it has dubbed “centaur warfighting” after the half-man, half-horse creature from Greek mythology. The strategy calls for close human control of autonomous weapons in a relationship that enhances an individual’s abilities rather than outright replaces them.

Just as aerial drones have changed modern combat, unmanned ground vehicles will transform how wars are fought on the ground.

Autonomous and semi-autonomous ground vehicles hold significant possibilities for the future of warfare. In conjunction with manned tanks they can provide additional firepower, be deployed in more dangerous areas, fire at enemies or dismantle defenses. Finally, all of this can be done while their operators remain at a safer distance.

According to Russian defense officials, the Uran-9 can provide reconnaissance while navigating rugged or hostile terrain. It can also beam images back on an adversary’s location or even attack a fortified position while it acts as a scout.

As the Uran-9 has shown, technologically the age of drone tanks has arrived, it is only a question of how militaries will use them. So far Russia has been the earliest adopter, and its next moves could have significant implications for other countries and future battle concepts.

This story originally appeared on The National Interest

Read more from The National Interest:

WATCH NEXT:

A UH-60 Black Hawk departs from The Rock while conducting Medevac 101 training with members of the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group, Feb. 16, 2019. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

A Minnesota Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with three Guardsmen aboard crashed south of St. Cloud on Thursday, said National Guard spokeswoman Army Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens.

At this time, the National Guard is not releasing any information about the status of the three people aboard the helicopter, Heusdens told Task & Purpose on Thursday.

Read More Show Less

The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.

Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."

Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.

Read More Show Less

The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.

Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.

Read More Show Less

I didn't think a movie about World War I would, or even could, remind me of Afghanistan.

Somehow 1917 did, and that's probably the highest praise I can give Sam Mendes' newest war drama: It took a century-old conflict and made it relatable.

Read More Show Less

An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps

"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."

news
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.

At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.

Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.

"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."

She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."

It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.

The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.

But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.

The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.

Read More Show Less