Russian Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin has announced that the country’s military will soon be requiring the assistance of people who are experienced in the computer game World of Tanks. This was stated after a Russian defense firm revealed its plans to make a remote-controlled tank in the not-so distant future.
Russian machine building company UralVagonZavod claims that, in the near future, it can manufacture a T-90 tank that could be remotely controlled from a distance of three to five kilometers, reports Russian News Agency Tass.
This isn’t the first time Rogozin has hinted at his preferences in terms of drone technologies. In September, he wrote on his Twitter account that the world is set to witness a situation in which “bespectacled nerds” would simply take out the forces of “handsome athletes who fight on a lower technological level.”
Armata – the first robot tank in line
The T-90 is an older model of the main battle tank the aforementioned company produced a few years ago, and now, the enterprise has changed its business strategy to producing more modern Armata tanksk. However, export variants of this vehicle are on offer right now while the experimental remotely operated machines are currently being developed.
World of Tanks is a free online multiplayer computer game that was released by Belarusian company Wargaming in 2010. According to an article published in Forbes magazine in 2014, there are more than 50 million registered users of WOT.
UralVagonZavod is keen on making Armata the basis for an entire armada of armored vehicles such as armored personnel carriers and anti-aircraft missile launchers, flame throwers, armored self-propelled artillery, tank salvage units, bridge-layers and minesweepers – all vehicles that will be operated by robots.
Since the end of the Cold War, Russia has been carrying out some serious research in a bid to automate its weapons systems and weapon-carrying vehicles. And although the full-scale mass production of Armata tanks is set to begin next year, there is a likelihood of delays in the process.
However, the most surprising revelation about this tank is that it is set to evolve into an “optionally piloted” design. The initial versions will have remotely operated loading and firing of the tank’s 125 mm cannon from an internal, separate crew compartment. However, that will only be a start as the military looks to completely make the tank remotely operated. If this really works out well, it will see the tank being deployed as the spearhead of an armored offensive, breaching enemy lines without risking the lives of Russian soldiers.
According to Popular Mechanics, Russian unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) are already way more advanced and sophisticated than their American counterparts and are capable of firing a machine gun during combat. U.S.-tested robots are currently capable of firing weapons systems as well, but they have not been able to work out the right formula to increase the fire response rate.
OAO Izhevsky Radiozavod’s mobile robot system, the MRK-002-BG-57, is a small, tank-like ground vehicle that weighs 1.1 tons. It can travel at speeds of up to 35 km/hour and can fire everything from an AK-47 assault rifle to a 30 mm grenade launcher and a 12.7 mm machine gun. Moreover, the MRK can be preprogrammed to seek and destroy up to 10 targets independently, which is quite an achievement.
Currently Russia has three other similar robotic tanks under development. All these projects have received a lot of backing from Russian leadership, while the country’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, has publicly endorsed the research and development tasks to increase the Russian army’s ability to use more robots than humans during war.
What does the future hold for U.S. R&D on the robot front?
It is clear that the creation of the Armata is going to affect investor portfolios in the U.S. General Dynamics for instance, builds tanks for the U.S. military, while iRobot has been given the task of making smaller military robots. So in the event of a threat from Russian drone tanks, will there be a merger between these two U.S. defense contractors?
Clearly, the Pentagon will be more than willing to accommodate the idea of such a collaboration in a bid to lessen the gap in drone technology between the U.S. and Russia. Such a team will be extremely necessary if Washington intends to match Russian advancements in this field.
Moreover, both firms could be willing to opt for a merger considering the losses both are bearing right now. iRobot has been hurt badly by the drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, while General Dynamics has had to lay off hundreds of workers at its Lima, Ohio Abrams tank plant due to a dip in sales of battle tanks. Revenues have also fallen for both firms, so a project that can compete with the Armata project in Russia could do the trick for both companies.
This collaboration, should it become a reality, will trigger a new kind of arms race between Russia and the U.S.– an arms race in which the warrior code might not have any significance whatsoever.