Written by Andrei Akulov; Originally appeared on strategic-culture.org
The combat experience that Russia’s Terminator-2 tank support combat vehicle (BMPT-72) has gained in Syria has proven to be invaluable. It is being used to develop a new Terminator-3 version that will soon equip the tank support system to do things like attacking unmanned aerial vehicles (drones). Other armored vehicles and dismounted infantry in difficult terrain remain high-priority targets.
Few details are available so far. Like its predecessors, the new vehicle’s armor protection will be equivalent to that of a main battle tank, with armaments allowing it to engage virtually any enemy weapon system or unit and to fire at multiple targets at the same time. Automation makes it possible to reduce the number of crew members from 5 to 3.
The new weapon system is likely to share its chassis, sensors, armor, and active protection system with the new Armata T-14 main battle tank. According to Russian media reports, the main armament will be a 57-mm. gun already used by the Russian Navy. Its rate of fire is 300 rounds per minute, its range — 16 km., and its altitude — over 4 km. The projectile can penetrate armor over 100 mm. thick. Because the firing range of its machine gun and automatic grenade launcher are 60-140% greater than that of the American Bradley IFVs and Stryker wheeled armored vehicles and anti-tank systems, this system can reliably protect tanks and infantry while remaining safely out of reach.
The Zvezda TV channel quoted officials from the weapons manufacturer Techmash who claimed that the Tosochka thermobaric, wheeled-chassis, heavy multiple-rocket launcher is to be delivered to the Russian Army in 2020. Using wheels instead of caterpillar tracks allows it to move faster but also increases the system’s vulnerability when operating on the front lines. One must assume that the MLRS will not be used to fire directly at targets, but will instead shoot at them from protected positions. Wheels make it more effective against terrorist units. It does not need trailers to move rapidly across great distances, which is exactly what is required to forcefully attack militants on different fronts.
Russian officials confirmed in May that the Uran-6 demining robot and the Uran-9 unmanned light battle tank have been tested in Syria. The latter is the first remote-controlled military robot in the world (a miniature tank) with a 30-mm. gun, enabling it to carry out the missions of an armored combat system supporting infantry on the ground.
The Uran-6 is a unique unmanned ground vehicle (UGV), or mine-clearing robotic system, that saves human lives by clearing routes across mine fields. Weighing six tons, it can be transported by truck. With its bulldozer blade and trawls, it can do the work of 20 sappers, neutralizing ordnance with a potential explosive energy of 59 kg. (130 lbs.) of TNT equivalent. Aided by four cameras for 360-degree view, it can be equipped with a large number of tools, such as a robotic arm, a rear forklift, a gripper with a cargo-lifting capacity of one ton, etc. The system can conduct demining operations on any terrain, while remaining at a safe distance of up to one km. away.
Made of steel plates 8 mm-10 mm thick, the vehicle is highly resistant to mine blasts and shrapnel damage. The system can defend itself using 7.62-mm small arms.
Built on the basis of a tracked chassis, the Uran-6 is powered by a 6-cylinder water-cooled, turbo-charged diesel engine, allowing it to move at a speed of up to 15 km., negotiate obstacles 0.8 m. high, cross 1.2-m wide ditches and water obstacles, and operate in swamps 0.45 m. deep. The system is able to work continuously for up to five hours. It did a great job in Palmyra, Syria, defusing bombs and bobby traps. The Russian Army plans to increasingly rely on UGVs as time goes on.
Mainly designed for reconnaissance and patrol purposes, as well as for protecting convoys and supporting infantry, Tigr-M all-terrain infantry mobility vehicles have also seen combat in Syria. With the Arbalet-DM remote module installed, the system becomes robotic. The module consists of a 12.7-mm. caliber Kord machine gun with 150 cartridges or a 7.62-mm caliber PKTM machine gun with 250 cartridges. Laser guidance is used. The Arbalet-DM can lock on and automatically track stationary and moving targets identified by a TV camera from a distance of 2.5 km. or 1.5 km. if thermal-imaging equipment is used. A laser range finder has a range of 100 m.-3,000 m. This new version of Tigr is funded by the 2018-2025 state procurement program.
The Tigr-M has outstanding off-road capabilities. With an operational range of 1.000 km, the vehicle can reach speeds of up to 155 km. per hour. It can climb 31-degree slopes and cross water obstacles that are 1.2 m wide.
The famous, combat-proven BMP-3 heavily armed infantry combat vehicles are to become unmanned too, as soon as the AU-220 combat module armed with a 57-mm. automatic cannon is installed. It will enable the system to strike aerial targets. The gun’s rate of fire is 80 rounds per minute and its range is 14.5 km. Any type of rounds can be used. An armor-piercing round can penetrate 130 mm. of steel from one km. away A coaxial 7.62-mm machine gun can hold 1,000 rounds of ammunition. The module can fully rotate 360 degrees.
The trend is clearly evident — the Russian Army is making great strides in its introduction of new, more highly automated technologies. New weapons that are unlike anything owned by any other country, such as tank support vehicles, are currently either being added to the Russian arsenal or are being developed. The army is also gradually moving away from soldier-to-soldier warfare, turning instead toward combat that is fought by remote-controlled machines driven by artificial intelligence. In March, Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoigu said that a number of military robotic systems were nearing the completion of their trials before going into serial production this year. He was telling the truth. Many nations are working hard to put unmanned systems onto the battlefields, but Russia appears to be leading this race, fielding its military robotics more quickly than anyone else. The very pace of the updates to these armored vehicles captures the imagination.