Robots in Urban Setting – What Insights?

Robots in Urban Setting – What Insights?

Photo illust. URAN-9 by Wikimedia
Uran-9 unmanned combat ground vehicle displayed at Army 2018

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In an effort that likely reflects Russia’s President Vladimir Putin’s desire for more unmanned systems at the battlefield, a unified concept regarding the operation of armed robots is now sought by the Russian armed forces. The use of robots in the urban setting and coastal combat is reviewed by the military, which is gathering proposed tactics, techniques and procedures. 

Russia’s defense ministry has asked various military-industrial enterprises to provide proposals for review by early next year to the military’s Combined Arms Academy. 

The initiative is meant to address “the virtual absence of a unified concept for the use of military robotics by the Russian armed forces,” RiaNovosti state news agency wrote. According to, the move reflects the Russian military’s experience in Syria, where numerous ground and air vehicles have made their operational debuts. For example, the initial operating experience of the multipurpose Uran-9 — Russia’s largest unmanned combat ground vehicle — did not go according to plan in “Syria’s near-urban conditions.” Valuable lessons were learnt for designing and employing future UGVs in urban combat although practically all of the Uran-9’s major systems have failed. 

Among the insights is the idea that unmanned combat systems need greater operational autonomy if they are to be effective without putting their human operators in harm’s way.

In the meantime, Russia’s defense manufacturers have been offering more and more robotic systems, such as the Kungas family of UGVs; the Marker UGV testbed that will conduct autonomous firing tests next year; and larger unmanned combat systems such as Soratnik and Shturm going into further tests. After undergoing trial by fire, the MOD is getting to the hard part: developing a unified concept of operations that will allow military robotics to fight side by side with soldiers in difficult urban combat environments.

Human-machine teaming will probably be one of the aspects that will have to be examined.