Ukraine becomes a laboratory for the use of killer robots

In addition to putting Russian troops in combat against Ukrainian ones since February, the conflict in Eastern Europe has also served as an experience for the use of robots, pointing to a possible future of wars, when murderous machines will be increasingly present among human soldiers.

It is suspected that the Russians were the first to use a killer drone (capable of killing enemies without the human presence of a military) on the battlefield before in Libya, in the year past, and now in Ukraine, as denounced by Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, an organization dedicated to assessing the risks of technology to humanity.

Also in , Russia tested new armed autonomous equipment, together with Belarus, in the military exercise Zapad-21. As a pro-Russian military expert and editor of Arsenal of the Fatherland magazine, Viktor Murakhovsky, analyzed in October last year, no other army in the world has the variety of vehicles unmanned vehicles and drones as Russia.

João Alfredo Lopes Nyegray, doctor in strategy, coordinator of the Foreign Trade course and professor of Geopolitics and International Business at Universidade Positivo, believes that these estimates and expectations about the quality of Russian equipment are, however, exaggerated.

“There are countless videos of poorly equipped soldiers with rusty and very old weaponry”, points out the professor. In the face of international aid to Ukraine, it is possible that Russia will lose out in the robot dispute.

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Uran-9 and other Russian bets

The main Russian highlight in the exercises carried out in partnership with the Belarusians last year was the Uran-9, the largest robot in Russia’s arsenal. Its “big ears” are related to the launchers located on the sides. The Uran-9 is armed with a 87 automatic cannon. mm, anti-tank guided missiles and flamethrowers.

Throughout this year, the Russians left Of course they continue to develop new war equipment. In addition to putting models of armed robot dogs at military fairs, they exhibited a new device, in a spherical shape and equipped with cameras and microphones.

According to the demonstrators, this drone in the shape of a small ball tennis shoe is being developed in Russia to be used in buildings with difficult access in war zones.

When launched at the target, the equipment can make a rotating movement, registering 360 degrees of images and collecting enemy conversations.

Ukraine is not far behind

A UGV (Unmanned Ground Vehicle, in English, or ground drone, made in Estonia, was offered to Kiev forces for use in moving wounded into combat zones. The possible uses for this equipment in the form of an unmanned tank, the THeMIS, “are almost limitless”, as described by the manufacturer Milrem Robotics. This robot can be attached to an armed turret, carrying a heavy-caliber machine gun, for example, making it a potentially killer robot.

The equipment caught the attention of Russia and CAST, a think tank linked to the Kremlin, offered the country’s troops a reward of one million rubles (R$ 800.524,55 in the current conversion) if they manage to capture an intact THeMIS.

“The conflict in Ukraine demonstrated that the modern war is unthinkable without the widespread use of unmanned vehicles”, explained Ruslan Pukhov, director of CAST, to Business Insider.

Russian troops are also targeting Ukrainian robots capable of clearing mines, drones that are used to launch grenades, as well as the newly unveiled anti-tank weapon in the form of a small ground robot.

Baptized Gnom Kamikaze, the device is manufactured by the Ukrainian company Temerland, based in Zaporizhzhia, in the west of the country. It is a small vehicle with low ground clearance, which carries an anti-tank mine.

Reprodução: TemerlandReprodução: TemerlandReprodução: Temerland
Reproduction: Temerland

With a height of only 479 millimeters, the robot is small enough to pass under enemy vehicles before exploding, but it can also increase its ground clearance to pass through small obstacles.

The device can transmit a video signal more than 660 meters and drive for an hour. Eduardo Trotsenko, CEO of Temerland, described on social media that the robot will be used in conjunction with a drone, “which will carry out aerial reconnaissance to guide the Gnom Kamikaze towards a vehicle”. It will also serve as a distraction, as drones are often used to drop explosive charges, allowing the robot to approach stealthily.

With the development of technology within the country, and also with international help, Ukraine has been encouraged to place this automated arsenal on the battlefield.

There are about 660 countries supplying Ukrainians with weapons, especially US, UK and Poland. “More than new and modern weapons, the Ukrainians are receiving ammunition and spare parts, which seems to be an Achilles heel for the Russians”, explains Nyegray.

The problem of autonomous robots

In the book Drones et robots – La guerre des futurs (Drones and robots – The war of the futures, in free translation, no Portuguese version), the French journalist and researcher Edouard Pflimlin deals with the robotization of the battlefield. More than countries, mainly the United States, they have military drones and a dozen of them feature armed drones, ie they can attack ground targets from the air.

In addition to drones, robots are also developing very rapidly. For now, as Pflimlin points out, they remain remotely controlled by a human operator. However, rapid technological progress and the advancement of artificial intelligence raise fears of the emergence of fully autonomous military robots. These robots are not subject to any international regulation and their systems do not allow a reliable and perfect control of their actions.

The French researcher recalls that autonomous aerial combat drones are being developed to enter into service before fromand the war in Ukraine may be accelerating this process.

In an interview with the channel French TV 5 Monde, General Nicolas Richoux points to the concern with the development of robots that attack without human control. “A legal problem is clearly created: who is responsible for the deaths?”, asks the military, noting that in authoritarian governments this concern is naturally less.

“A war made only of autonomous robots, as in fiction films, it is already technologically possible. But it would be a war that was easier to start and more difficult to end”, points out the general. According to Richoux, without so many human losses, a country would have less reason to give up on a conflict.

In the same program, Belgian researcher Jonathan Bannenberg, from the Research and Information Group on Peace and Security of the country (GRIP, in the acronym in French), recalls that, since 2018, Belgium prohibits the use of Autonomous robots in the army. The expert advises that countries that develop this technology, and have been discussing the subject for almost a decade, finally focus on creating international rules.

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