Can Russia's Military Bots Keep Pace?
The United States remains the global leader in fielded military robotic and autonomous systems -- from unmanned aerial systems, in use now for a decade and a half, to emerging land, sea, and undersea-based technologies that may see use in future conflicts. America is pouring financial, technical, and intellectual support into such advanced developments, and while countries such as Israel are also seen at the forefront of armed robotics, Russia and China are trying to close the gap. Pressed by sanctions and afflicted by a worsening national economy, Moscow is nonetheless seeking to match America's strength in emerging technologies through domestic developments of asymmetrical and in-kind inventions.
The Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda often interviews government officials on foreign policy and domestic matters, thus giving voice to official doctrines. The publication recently looked at how the Russian Federation might counter American technological dominance in future conflicts. The newspaper characterized the most cutting-edge U.S. efforts at military innovation as frequently amounting to giveaways by lawmakers to key contractors such as Lockheed and Boeing, but worried nevertheless about the definite military advantage they could give the United States if actually deployed.
So what is Russia doing in response?
The paper said the development of "managed flocks" of militarized robotic "bugs and spiders" are an obvious fantasy, and Russia will not go down that path - never mind that recent developments at Harvard have produced exactly what some in Russia are trying to dismiss.
"Such weapons are of an offensive nature, while our military doctrine is defensive," said the paper. "Therefore, we will build weapons of a defensive nature, developing and producing that which is necessary for war." Dismissing a fully autonomous robot as "utopia," Russia will seek to develop and field remote-controlled systems such as the recently unveiled "Avatar" robotic concept. KP further emphasized that human operators of such systems can solve the complex problem of "friend or foe" recognition: "If there is an artificial brain in such a system, you never know what may happen, since 'friend or foe' computer and signal mechanics can be easily suppressed by means of electronic warfare, which is one of Russia's key military strengths."
The paper further emphasized the key importance of electronic warfare (EW) in Russian military doctrine: "Our EW is a weapon of asymmetric warfare. Without sending reconnaissance units to enemy territory and creating thunderous explosions, EW can detect and disrupt enemy radar control systems and recognition of radio controlled fuses, as well as affect information networks, including mobile communications and the Internet, and even satellites. In recent years, we successfully completed the testing and commercial production of two dozen new models of EW equipment, such as Borisoglebsk-2, Krasuha C4, Moscow-1, Leer-2, Leer-3, and many others."
The paper further stated that Russia will not develop bacteriological weapons, since "it's impossible to create a magical vaccine capable of protecting 100 percent of the population and the army from bacteria and viruses. But we do not lose vigilance and are learning to resist biological weapons."
KP also cited the development of the Merlin-21b and Inspector 01 reconnaissance drones. Merlin has an onboard all-weather radar that can detect concealed objects, while the Inspector can stay in the air for two days -- its electric motor and a unique battery also make it silent and undetectable by heat signature. The paper also confirmed Russian anti-UAV development.
KP also confirmed that Moscow is taking cyber threats, and protection against them, very seriously: "We are creating a protected Internet for the public sector and defense industry, we are increasing education of cybersecurity specialists in universities, and are expanding the development of domestic software and their means of protection," the paper wrote.