Weapons of the Future: Can Robots Replace Humans on the Battlefield?
(Source: Sputnik News; posted Feb 27, 2017)
On February 27, Russian marks Special Operations Forces Day. The Special Operation Forces (SSO) of the Russian Armed Forces are among the first military units to receive the most advanced weapons and pieces of equipment.

SSO personnel test Russian cutting-edge equipment and weapons and make conclusions on their capabilities and readiness for use by other military units.

In an interview with Sputnik, Oleg Martyanov, the first SSO commander and a member of the board of the Russian Military and Industrial Commission, commented on the current equipment of the Russian Special Forces and shared thoughts on future developments in the field.

In December 2016, two of Russia’s brand-new robotic armored systems – Nerekhta and Soratnik –participated in military drills alongside infantry officers. Soratnik is a tracked armored vehicle fitted with a computerized control system, as well as detection and surveillance equipment and can carry a variety of weapon mounts. Nerekhta is a unique kamikaze robot capable of destroying enemy tanks and fortifications by moving close to them and blowing itself up.

According to Martyanov, new advanced technologies will allow for remote examination of the enemy, particularly with the use of virtual reality modelling.

"In addition, weapons remote control technologies are evolving. They are not only about missiles and drones, but also about robotic systems and combat modules. Developments in this field are important for sniper weapons as well as for aircraft ammunition," Martyanov said.

At the same time, according to Martyanov, new protective technologies are also in development.

"Individual protective gear now involves advanced materials with increased efficiency. For example, ultra-high molecular polyethylene is used for manufacturing new individual armor protection. It is lighter, more efficient and resistant to aggressive environmental conditions," he said.

Recently, the Russian Fund for Advanced Research (FPI) unveiled a new project dubbed "Defender of the Future." The program is aimed at turning a soldier into a complicated and integrated system with increased combat skills and survivability.

"Multiple efforts are now being taken to integrate all elements of a soldier’s equipment into one system, including night vision, communications devices and individual protection gear. For example, a typical bulletproof vest could have additional functions, including accumulating electric energy, serving as a radar antenna and providing a camouflage," Martyanov said.

According to him, the "Defender of the Future" includes research and development in several scientific and technical fields. Some of those developments will also be used in the Ratnik infantry combat system.

Ratnik, developed as a "future soldier" concept, includes 59 pieces of equipment, comprising firearms, body armor, optical, communication and navigation devices, as well as life support and power supply systems, according to the official developer. The system protects nearly 90 percent of the soldier’s body. It was designed to improve the Russian Armed Forces' combat capability.

Speaking further, Martyanov also said that when it comes to developing new equipment for the Special Forces technologies are borrowed sometimes from extreme sports.

"Currently, we are actively developing new landing, evacuation and electric-powered transportation technologies. Extreme sports technologies are expensive and impossible to be quickly adapted in the army. However, after they are tested by the Special Operations Forces they are usually upgraded and ready for mass use by the military," he said.

Martyanov also gave a promising outlook for the use of various types of combat robots and robotic systems, including highly autonomous ones.

At the same time, according to him, robots are unlikely to replace human soldiers on the future battlefield, but they will definitely increase their skills and capabilities.

"New technologies are developing fast. They require increased handling skills. Despite the fact that all pieces of advanced equipment are designed to be easy to use, they still require the soldier to be technically skilled. The man remains the heart of an integrated combat system. He interacts with new weapons and robotic systems. Technology can save lives and increase soldiers’ capabilities, but it will never be able to replace humans on the battlefield," Martyanov concluded.


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