The Russian approach is to stick a machinegun and a rocket launcher on the mule and send it ahead of the troops

Sunday, December 12th, 2021

Ukraine’s defense minister promising a “bloody massacre” if Russia invades:

While Ukraine is heavily outmatched by Russian forces, the threat of heavy casualties is one which Russian cannot ignore. This is why uncrewed systems – remote-controlled robot warriors – could play an important part where the fighting is heaviest.


“Today Russia is more averse to casualties for military and political reasons,” Samuel Bendett, an expert on the Russian defense scene, and adviser to both the CNA and CNAS told me. “Both Chechnya wars are still fresh in many Russians’ memories and the casualties that Russian forces took in those wars has a very powerful and negative effect on the population’s overall support for such campaigns.”


While other nations have pursued armed drones, Russia has carved out a niche in developing and fielding a variety of armed ground robots, most notably the Uran-9, which was used extensively in Syria.


The Uran-9 is an uncrewed tracked vehicle the size of a large SUV weighing ten tons. Usual armament is a 30mm automatic cannon, four anti-tank guided missiles and rocket launchers firing unguided thermobaric rockets (the Russians describe this as a rocket-flamethrower), plus a machine gun. It can be remotely controlled from two miles away. A specific aim of fielding the Uran-9 is to “minimize battlefield casualties”: throwing expendable robots into the assault means less fire will be directed at humans.

“The Russian military is presenting the ongoing modernization as turning the military into a precise and high-tech force. Developing different types of unmanned systems speaks to that principle as making missions more effective and ultimately saving soldiers by removing troops from certain dangerous front line combat,” says Bendett.

This approach is seen as heresy in some military quarters. In the U.S. Army for example, unmanned ground vehicles are seen more as auxiliaries, providing logistics support as robot truck drivers and battlefield mules to lug footsoldiers equipment, not replacign them. The Russian approach is to stick a machinegun and a rocket launcher on the mule and send it ahead of the troops, not have it trailing behind.


  1. E-nonymouse says:

    The US Army is working on the issue. Don’t expect a direct manned replacement for the Abrams, for instance.

  2. Lu An Li says:

    Simple solution. Get close and spray paint the sensors. Any volunteers.

  3. Sam J. says:

    E-nonymouse says, “The US Army is working on the issue.”

    As much money as we spend on the military we should have 50,000 of those armored mules with rockets, 3,000 ships, powered armor for the troops. Someone is just stealing all that money. It’s not going to where they say it does.

    They whole entire, I mean every single one, staff of generals in the US armed forces need to be let go. At some point things become so corrupt the only thing you can do is tear it down and rebuild from scratch.

  4. VXXC says:

    There is a marked difference between US and Russian “doctrine,” although this is more philosophy.

    The Russian arm of decision is the artillery in various forms; infantry exists to consolidate gains by the artillery blasting the path clear. Artillery includes Air. You may or may not include tanks in this equation. Its firepower clears and then people consolidate. Or auxiliaries clear, snipers clear or hold as economy of force, but regular troops are precious.

    The American arms of decision are Armor officially and Infantry with Artillery and Air in support.

    This plays out in the battlefield already, not just in Syria but Ukraine. The Russians don’t like wasting lives.

    In the US Army the internal politics may well have the Infantry, with its love children SOF/SOCOM, in competition with Armor for who’s on top (usually the Infantry in some form), but Artillery is not really in the running.

    Also, the Russians are deep into drones, and we are nowhere near as deep into drone or counter-drone, despite the urgency of the latter. Wait and see, it is quite urgent to get a good counter-drone capability. We’re “talking” about it with “doctrinal review” and a “holistic approach”. We have all the tech; they just don’t field it.

    It doesn’t help that we’ve been playing — and only playing — at counterinsurgency for the last 20 years, and, yes, Luttwak is right; it’s military malpractice.

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