Russia’s Drone Tank Looks Like A Bad-Ass, But Is It Feasible?

The heavily-armed Uran-9 is armed to the tooth but it does beg questions as to how useful it might be on the battlefield owing to a number of factors. While it could certainly break some stuff, its utility should be questioned if ever put on a battlefield.

Russia's Drone Tank Looks Like A Bad-Ass, But Is It Feasible?

Drone tank armed to the teeth

We’ll get to the problems that the Uran-9 might experience on a battlefield in a bit but it won’t show up to a battle with nothing more than a pop gun. If the Uran-9 is ever put into deadly service it will arrive with a 30mm 2A72 automatic cannon, a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun and multiple 9M120 Ataka anti-tank guided missiles. Each of those will be fired by operators who have a range optics and targeting systems that should allow for the operator to see without any issues with thermals and more. That suite of weapons is more than sufficient to hunt individual soldiers  or go to work on buildings where soldiers might be hiding. If functioning well, a battle tank or hardened target could also fall victim to its wrath.

It also has the ability to shed some of that weaponry and replace, say the Ataka anti-tank guided missiles, with Igla or Strela surface-to-air missiles….or a combination of missiles for ground and air targets where missiles are required.

The problems with the drone tank

It doesn’t work by itself, it doesn’t employ the artificial intelligence that would make it part of Skynet. Rather, it is controlled and re-armed by a controller nearby and all require a transporter truck to arrive to battle, so human life is still on the line. Wouldn’t it be better just to show up to fight on your own with an experienced, well-trained crew in a big mean battle tank? Probably.

The range in which the Uran-9 could be employed is classified but most experts believe it’s limited. Additionally, the potential for buildings and other structures to block radio signals between the controller and the vehicle, especially in an urban environment, is too great to call it the perfect solution to keeping soldiers out of harm’s way.

An airborne drone just doesn’t have this problem.

In addition to the problem with radio signals is the problems presented by a satellite data-link. Beyond the perceived problems with Russian data-links is the bandwidth required to operate a single vehicle. There are just so many potential problems. While a recent video shows the Uran-9 busting its way through obstacles and blockades, what happens if a requisite antenna breaks off and a signal is lost. It just sits there and hopes for the best. Humans inside, could fix this.

Again, a drone flying at a high-altitude doesn’t have these problems. Now, the controller of the Uran-9 would certainly be well-trained it doesn’t change the fact that even driving a remote controlled car is not easy. Even an F1 driver doesn’t automatically become a good RC car driver. There is just no substitute for a good driver whether going to the supermarket or robbing a bank.

Until it becomes self-driving, I just can’t find a single use for a drone tank like this outside of base defense(?) and even that is better served by humans who are there. And when was the last old-fashioned ground war with armored vehicles facing up against one another? Desert Storm in 1991?