The Russian army has a cool new robot tank, but there's a really good chance it doesn't work
- The Uran-9 unmanned combat ground vehicle has reportedly entered service with the Russian military.
- The revolutionary robotic tank built for fire support and reconnaissance missions performed horribly in combat tests in Syria.
- Leaked Russian reports on the testing prompted estimates that it could be more than 10 years before the technology would be ready.
- The US military has been researching this technology for more than a decade.
A new robotic tank with a disastrous performance history has reportedly entered service with the Russian army, according to multiple reports citing Russian state media.
Armed with anti-tank missiles, a 7.62 mm machine gun, and a 30 mm automatic cannon, the Uran-9 unmanned ground combat vehicle was designed for advanced fire support and reconnaissance missions over a 2-mile range.
But as of last summer, the revolutionary new weapon was still a very long way from being combat ready, according to Defence Blog, an online military magazine.
In June 2018, a leaked internal report from a senior researcher with the 3rd Central Research Institute of the Russian Defense Ministry surfaced online, revealing that the elite new unmanned system had performed poorly during combat trials in Syria.
The actual operational range is estimated to be closer to 300 to 500 meters, a fraction of what was initially promised.
Furthermore, operators lost control of the vehicles repeatedly, 17 times for up to a minute and twice for 1 1/2 hours. Control problems tended to become more severe in urban environments where buildings interfered with the signal, potentially undermining a key practical purpose.
The main cannon experienced firing failures and delays. The internal targeting systems were unstable, and the machine components tended to break down, according to Task & Purpose.
The senior research officer Andrei Anisimov concluded that the "modern Russian combat Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) are not able to perform the assigned tasks in the classical types of combat operations," adding that it would be 10 to 15 years before the technology was ready, The National Interest reported.
Defence Blog reports that the Uran-9 also failed state tests after its blunders in Syria.
Yet, the Russian military has reportedly adopted the platform, which could mean that the problems have been addressed or that the robot will simply serve as a test bed for future developments.
"We are currently completing the production of the first series lot," Vladimir Dmitriev, the head of Kalashnikov Concern, the manufacturer of the new vehicles, told the Russian media. "The Uran have a good scientific and technological potential for developing further products."
Dmitriev said the testing in Syria led to improvements in the technology.
The US has been researching and developing unmanned fighting systems for more than a decade. The Army even had a prototype for a robotic tank known as the "Black Knight" back in 2007. The newly established Army Futures Command is looking at optionally manned fighting vehicles as a part of the new next-generation combat-vehicle program.
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