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:

Former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, whom President Donald Trump recently pardoned of his 2013 murder conviction, claims he was nothing more than a pawn whom generals sacrificed for political expediency.

The infantry officer had been sentenced to 19 years in prison for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men in 2012. Two of the men were killed.

During a Monday interview on Fox & Friends, Lorance accused his superiors of betraying him.

"A service member who knows that their commanders love them will go to the gates of hell for their country and knock them down," Lorance said. "I think that's extremely important. Anybody who is not part of the senior Pentagon brass will tell you the same thing."

"I think folks that start putting stars on their collar — anybody that has got to be confirmed by the Senate for a promotion — they are no longer a soldier, they are a politician," he continued. "And so I think they lose some of their values — and they certainly lose a lot of their respect from their subordinates — when they do what they did to me, which was throw me under the bus."

Read More Show Less
Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps march during a parade to commemorate the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), in Tehran September 22, 2011. (Reuters photo)

Fifteen years after the U.S. military toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Army's massive two-volume study of the Iraq War closed with a sobering assessment of the campaign's outcome: With nearly 3,500 U.S. service members killed in action and trillions of dollars spent, "an emboldened and expansionist Iran appears to be the only victor.

Thanks to roughly 700 pages of newly-publicized secret Iranian intelligence cables, we now have a good idea as to why.

Read More Show Less
(Associated Press photo)

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed confidence on Sunday in the U.S. military justice system's ability to hold troops to account, two days after President Donald Trump pardoned two Army officers accused of war crimes in Afghanistan.

Trump also restored the rank of a Navy SEAL platoon commander who was demoted for actions in Iraq.

Asked how he would reassure countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of the pardons, Esper said: "We have a very effective military justice system."

"I have great faith in the military justice system," Esper told reporters during a trip to Bangkok, in his first remarks about the issue since Trump issued the pardons.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Army Rangers resting in the vicinity of Pointe du Hoc, which they assaulted in support of "Omaha" Beach landings on "D-Day," June 6, 1944. (Public domain)

Editor's Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

For one veteran who fought through the crossfires of German heavy machine guns in the D-Day landings, receiving a Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of his service and that of his World War II comrades would be "quite meaningful."

Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate to award the Army Rangers of World War II the medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by the United States, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Read More Show Less
Senior Airman Marlon Xavier Cruz Gonzalez

An airman at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base was arrested and charged with murder on Sunday after a shooting at a Raleigh night club that killed a 21-year-old man, the Air Force and the Raleigh Police Department said.

Read More Show Less