Should NATO be worried?
Russia’s Kalashnikov Group has tested a new unmanned ground combat vehicle called the Soratnik under “near” combat conditions. The Russian development points toward a future where armies will increasingly field unmanned systems during future conflicts.
“The Soratnik automated fighting vehicle has been tested in conditions maximally close to a real combat environment. These trials confirmed the vehicle’s characteristics and proved the possibility of using the robotic system at air temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius,” Kalashnikov Group told the TASS news agency.
There is no hard evidence that the Russians have tested unmanned ground vehicles in actual combat other than relatively basic explosive ordnance disposal/mine-clearing robots. While TASS says that the Soratnik was tested in Syria, available photographic evidence makes it very difficult to say one way or the other if that is indeed the case.
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“Soratnik testing in Syria may have in fact taken place considering the mine clearing UGVs that Russia has tested there and is planning to use from now on,” Samuel Bendett, a researcher at the Center for Naval Analyses who specializes in Russian robotics. “The absence of clear photographic evidence about Soratnik testing may have to do with the combat mission of that UGV as opposed to peacekeeping/de-mining missions of other UGVs.”