Ground robots may be the 'next game-changer technology' of the war, senior Ukrainian official says

  • Ukraine is aiming to field a diverse arsenal of ground robots to help support its war efforts.

  • These robots can launch assaults, lay mines, and deliver supplies to the front lines.

  • One senior Ukrainian official said they could be the "next game-changer technology" of the war.

Ukraine has its eyes set on a dynamic fleet of ground robots to fight alongside — and, sometimes, instead of — its soldiers in combat as Kyiv continues growing its arsenal of unmanned systems.

These robotic systems, also known as unmanned ground vehicles, can launch assaults on Russian positions, self-destruct next to enemy armor, and deliver ammunition to front-line positions, among various other tasks.

UGVs have already carried out these kinds of missions, though not on the same scale as Ukraine's unmanned aerial vehicles and drone boats.

"Ground robotics is one of the solutions," Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine's minister of digital transformation, said in translated remarks shared with Business Insider. "If robots can fight instead of people, why won't we try to do this?"

Fedorov set up UNITED24, a Ukrainian government initiative that has for over two years helped fuel Kyiv's war efforts by raising money to purchase weaponry like drones, and recently, it launched a fundraising campaign to acquire three types of ground robots for the military.

Ukraine hopes to use the new ground robots in different roles, supporting direct combat, minelaying, and logistical operations on the battlefield, according to a fact sheet about this initiative shared with BI.

Multiple ground robots at a UNITED24 summit.
Multiple ground robots at a UNITED24 summit.UNITED24

The new ground combat robots can assault and defend positions, as well as conduct surveillance and reconnaissance, all while being operated remotely from up to two-and-a-half miles away. The systems are armed with machine guns, hardened against small-arms fire, and outfitted with thermal-imaging cameras for nighttime missions.

The minelaying and self-destruct robots can threaten Russian armor, positions, and supply routes. Strapped with anti-tank mines, these systems can charge into a target at over 15 mph before detonating, or they can drop explosives on the ground. They can be operated remotely from nearly three-and-a-half miles away.

The logistical robots, on the other hand, aren't necessarily capable of directly inflicting losses on the Russians, but they can be used for life-saving and resupply missions. These systems can quickly deliver ammunition and equipment to front-line positions and evacuate wounded soldiers with their ability to carry over 1,300 pounds. They also boast a 25-mile operational range.

A MOROZ combat robot.
The MOROZ combat robot.UNITED24
A RATEL-S minelaying robot.
The RATEL-S minelaying robot.UNITED24
A RYS PRO logistics drone
The RYS PRO logistics robot.UNITED24

"Squads of robots will save the lives of our military and civilians," the Ukrainian fact sheet says. "They will fight alongside people and for people. The first robots are already proving their effectiveness on the battlefield, but there are many more required."

Fedorov said there's no exact number of robots that Ukraine is seeking because there's a "constant need" for them, so they are just trying to get as many as possible. The cost of the robots varies, as each type has different variants manufactured across the defense industry.

Systems that have more sophisticated technologies, like those with machine guns, for instance, are naturally going to be more expensive than those used primarily for medical evacuations without any weaponry attached.

Fedorov explained that the goal right now is to pump money into the defense industry so production facilities can invest in research and development and scale-up the operation — leading to cheaper, faster, and better products. He said that Ukraine's drone industry has already seen this big push in other areas, and now robots are the next focus.

An LYUT combat robot.
The LYUT combat robot.UNITED24

"I believe robotics [is] the next game-changer technology of this war," Fedorov said. "The same one as were drones at some point."

Both Ukraine and Russia have employed UGVs in this war, giving the two militaries another domain in which they can wage war with unmanned systems beyond the air and sea. Ground robots have even been involved in drone-on-drone combat, underscoring a level of depth and sophistication to these operations.

The evolution of unmanned systems has been one of the defining elements of the Ukraine war. Beyond being used to conduct one-way attacks on enemy personnel and armor and keep soldiers out of harm's way, they have also given the world an unprecedented — and often terrifying — look at the conflict.

These developments observed in Ukraine, meanwhile, have prompted Western forces like the US military and its partner forces to reexamine how they can better prepare for future conflicts.

"This is the most technologically advanced war in human history," Fedorov said. "Technologies make a difference on the battlefield, and we are basically re-inventing their use every day."

Read the original article on Business Insider