On the verge of a breakthrough: artificial intelligence goes to the Russian army

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On the verge of a breakthrough: artificial intelligence goes to the Russian army
On the verge of a breakthrough: artificial intelligence goes to the Russian army

Happy autonomous future

The situation in the world is changing rapidly. At the beginning of the 21st century, everyone admired the capabilities of the RQ-4 Global Hawk strategic reconnaissance drone. Last year, no one was surprised by the ordinariness of the destruction of manpower and expensive military equipment by Bayraktar shock troops. And finally, the time has come - a miniature kamikaze drone Kargu-2 killed a man in a fully automatic mode.

It happened in Libya last year, but a detailed UN report on this case reached us only this spring. According to the official version, a Turkish-made drone destroyed a fighter of the Libyan National Army, which is fighting under the leadership of Khalifa Haftar. This is not the first time in history that artificial intelligence has killed a person.

This first happened in 2016, when Tesla was in a self-driving car accident that killed 40-year-old driver Joshua Brown. But Tesla then did it unintentionally - the sensors did not see the white semi-trailer, and the car flew under it at speed. But the military incident in Libya last year becomes a wake-up call - now robots are killing people in a completely autonomous mode. That is, they independently decide whether a person should live or not. However, this is a completely natural result of decades of efforts by world arms companies.

It is noteworthy that Turkey is becoming the most important supplier of this kind of news. At first, she widely advertised her Bayraktar in Nagorno-Karabakh, and now the previously little-known kamikaze drone Kargu-2 has hit the world tapes. It is Turkey, which until now could not be ranked among the world leaders of the IT industry, unexpectedly found itself at the forefront of unmanned warfare.

All this suggests that it is extremely risky to be late in the drone and artificial intelligence race. First, it poses a serious threat to Russian troops in hypothetical future conflicts. And, secondly, it threatens to lose part of the world arms market.

This is well understood in the domestic military department. Sergei Shoigu recently decided to dispel all the idle speculation and talked about the combat systems with artificial intelligence being developed for the army. Moreover, some of the weapons already have serial status. It happened within the framework of the educational marathon "New Knowledge" with the aim of informing the younger generation about the achievements of Russian science and technology.

Like in science fiction films

There are several nuances to the story of autonomous minds in the military. Russian weapons have a sacred meaning for citizens. The presence of the most modern and unparalleled weapons in the world instills in Russians a sense of national pride and self-confidence. Therefore, such a sensation was made by "Armata" and "Dagger". For many, this technique has become a symbol of the rebirth of Russia.


It seems that autonomous drones should take a significant place in the new state armaments program, which is just beginning to be developed. Combat vehicles capable of independently making a decision to open fire will become a marker of Russia's entry into the world club of highly developed states. This will be more important than the fact that the Armata has been adopted or that another intercontinental ballistic missile is put on alert.

It is important to remember that artificial intelligence and drones are not just a story about the army. One of the experts, Ivan Konovalov, Development Director of the Foundation for Assistance to Technologies of the 21st Century, believes that unmanned technologies will become an excellent driver for the development of the civilian industrial sector. As an analogy, Konovalov cites the Internet, which was originally created for the needs of the Pentagon and is now settled in almost every iron. However, the Internet still serves the Pentagon perfectly, albeit in a completely different way - in the field of cybernetic and information wars.

The forthcoming weapons program, unlike the previous one, places a special emphasis on fundamentally new types of weapons. For example, it was previously required to upgrade the T-72 to the level of the T-72B3, which did not imply large-scale scientific research. Now, for the full implementation of only artificial intelligence in the defense sector, serious investments in applied and fundamental science will be required. And this should become a powerful driver for the civilian industry - aircraft, automotive technology, microelectronics and other sectors.

Alexander Kashirin, Deputy Chairman of the Scientific and Technical Council of the Rostec Corporation, in this regard, supports the opinion of Ivan Konovalov and, in an interview with the Expert publication, mentions, in particular:

“Such disruptive innovations can ultimately find applications outside of targeted military developments, and even broader than in the defense industry. This applies to literally everything - from aircraft engines and car chassis to information technology. Yes, the process of adapting military technologies to civilian needs takes years and decades. But it is quite possible to say that investments and the development of specific competencies in the defense industry are at the same time investments in the economy as a whole - moreover, in its most advanced industries - and therefore are the drivers of overall growth."

Growth points with many unknowns

Sergei Shoigu during the New Knowledge marathon has not yet revealed all the cards and named a sample of equipment with elements of artificial intelligence. It is likely that the first swallows will be demonstrated at the upcoming Army-2021 forum. Moreover, analysts have been talking for months about a large share of "smart" cars in the exposition of the main military forum this year. There are no specific inputs yet, so you only have to fantasize, that is, predict.

Remotely controlled robots "Uran-6" (demining), "Uran-14" (firefighter) and combat "Uran-9" should receive new content. Of the ground platforms, this particular trinity is worthy of "artificial intelligence, thanks to which they are able to fight independently." Engineering and strike vehicles have already passed the baptism of fire in Syria and the necessary operating experience has been accumulated on them.

A similar "inoculation of wisdom" can be obtained by robotic systems "Companion". The most important task here (and the most difficult one) is to teach the robot to accurately open fire only at the enemy. As far as we know from open sources, this problem has not yet been finally solved anywhere in the world. And the above-described case with the Turkish Kargu-2 does not count - a soulless kamikaze absolutely no matter who it was to kill - a civilian, an ally, an enemy, or a large animal.

It is precisely in the identification of objects in the process of processing video, photo and thermal images that the potential of artificial intelligence should manifest itself. In addition to the technical part, the skills of the staff of programmers of the Russian military-industrial complex are of particular importance. It is required to create a neural network capable of self-learning and excluding errors of the first and second kind. That is, when the robot does not open fire at the right moment or strikes at the wrong targets.

Elements of artificial intelligence can also be obtained by machines of the heavy robotic complex "Shturm", developed on the basis of the T-72. There are plans to create special companies equipped only with such autonomous armored vehicles. This technique is expected to work in the most dangerous sectors of the front. But the completely unmanned version of "Sturm" also has opponents. Former chief of staff of the Leningrad Military District, Colonel-General Sergei Kizyun, believes that there will be a lot of problems with uninhabited armored vehicles in the rear. Yes, on the battlefield, such a robot will save the lives of tankers, but when loaded onto a railway platform or a tank trawl, it may simply fail. The way out is seen in the optionally controlled armored vehicle - it acts independently in battle, and in the rear under the levers of the driver.

Military motorists can also surprise. For more than five years now, in the bowels of OJSC KAMAZ, work has been carried out on unmanned trucks capable of independently moving in a convoy and even overcoming rough terrain. The military version of such autonomous vehicles will most likely be presented under the military brand "Remdizel". Thus, OJSC KAMAZ is trying to defend itself against Western sanctions.


Be that as it may, by 2021, the domestic military-industrial complex came with many programs for the development of combat robots. There are 21 R&D projects for the ground forces, 42 for aviation at once, and in the interests of the Navy they are working on 17 projects.

Many material incarnations of artificial intelligence for the military cannot be demonstrated to the general public at all. Not because of secrecy, but because the format does not imply a show program.

How, for example, can you effectively show the system of intelligent suppression of enemy radio communications and countermeasures of enemy electronic warfare?

In the Russian army, the Bylina automated electronic warfare (EW) brigade control system is responsible for such work. In the United States, DARPA is funding a similar project, BLADE, the Behavioral Learning for Adaptive Electronic Warfare System.

An important application of artificial intelligence will be defense systems against massive cyber attacks. Moreover, it is this area of work that will become the most demanded for the machine mind.

In the coming years, we will witness real battles in cyberspace. In some cases, such battles will become substitutes for real battles. And leadership in artificial intelligence technologies is critically important here.

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