Fighting robots in future wars: expert conclusions

Fighting robots in future wars: expert conclusions
Fighting robots in future wars: expert conclusions
Fighting robots in future wars: expert conclusions
Fighting robots in future wars: expert conclusions

At the beginning of February this year. in the editorial office of the "Independent Military Review" was held a traditional expert round table, organized by the Independent Expert and Analytical Center "EPOCHA" and devoted to the problem of the development of robotic systems for military purposes.

The participants in the discussion, realizing all the complexity, complexity and even ambiguity of the problems of the development of military robotics, agreed on one thing: this direction is the future, and our tomorrow's successes or failures depend on how professionally we act in this area today.

The main theses of the specialists who spoke in the discussion on this topic, which is important for the future military development of the Russian Federation, are given below.


Igor Mikhailovich Popov - Candidate of Historical Sciences, Scientific Director of the Independent Expert and Analytical Center "EPOCH"

The development of robotics is a key topic for the modern world. Humanity, by and large, is just entering the present era of robotization, while some countries are already striving to break out into leaders. In the long term, the winner is the one who already finds his place in the unfolding global technological race in the field of robotics.

Russia has a rather favorable position in this regard - there is a scientific and technological groundwork, there are personnel and talents, there is innovative courage and creative aspiration for the future. Moreover, the country's leadership understands the importance of the development of robotics and is doing everything possible to ensure that Russia has a leading position in this area.

Robotics plays a special role in ensuring national security and defense. The armed forces, equipped with promising types and samples of robotic systems of tomorrow, will have an undeniable intellectual and technological superiority over an enemy who, for one reason or another, will not be able to join the elite “club of robotic powers” in time and will be on the sidelines of the unfolding robotic revolution. A technological lag in the field of robotics today could be disastrous in the future.

That is why it is so important today to treat the problem of the development of robotics both in the country and in the army with all seriousness and objectivity, without propaganda fanfare and victorious reports, but thoughtfully, comprehensively and conceptually. And in this area there is something to think about.

The first obvious and long overdue problem is the terminological base of the field of robotics. There are many variants of definitions of the term "robot", but there is no unity of approaches. A robot is sometimes called a children's radio-controlled toy, and a car gearbox, and a manipulator in an assembly shop, and a medical surgical instrument, and even "smart" bombs and missiles. Along with them are, on the one hand, unique developments of android robots and, on the other hand, serial models of unmanned aerial vehicles.

So what do officials of various ministries and departments, heads of industrial enterprises and scientific organizations mean when they talk about robotics? Sometimes one gets the impression that all and sundry have now rushed to juggle this fashionable term. All sorts of robots are already counting hundreds of thousands, if not millions.

The conclusion is unambiguous: a generally accepted terminology in the field of robotics is needed to separate the basic concepts of remote control systems, automatic, semi-autonomous, autonomous systems, systems with artificial intelligence. At the expert level, clear boundaries of these concepts should be established so that everyone can communicate in the same language and so that decision-makers do not have false ideas and unjustified expectations.

As a result, it seems to us, it will inevitably have to introduce new concepts, which in the most adequate form would reflect the technological realities of the field of robotics. Under a robot, it would obviously be rational to mean a system with artificial intelligence, which has a high or full degree of autonomy (independence) from a person. If we take this approach as a basis, then the number of robots today can be measured in pieces. And the rest of the array of so-called robots will be, at best, only automated or remotely controlled devices, systems and platforms.

The problem of terminology in the field of robotics is especially relevant for the military department. And here an important problem arises: is a robot needed in the army?

In the public mind, fighting robots are associated with pictures of running android robots attacking enemy positions. But if we get away from science fiction, then several problems immediately arise. We are confident that creating such a robot is a very real task for creative teams of scientists, designers and engineers. But how long will it take for them to do this, and how much will the android they create cost? How much would it cost to produce hundreds or thousands of these combat robots?

There is a general rule: the cost of the weapon must not exceed the cost of the target. It is unlikely that the commander of the robotic brigade of the future will dare to throw his androids into a frontal attack on the fortified positions of the enemy.

Then the question arises: are such android robots needed in linear combat units at all? To date, the answer is likely to be negative. It is expensive and very difficult, and the practical return and efficiency are extremely low. It is difficult to imagine any situation on the battlefield in which an android robot would be more effective than a professional soldier. Unless acting in conditions of radioactive contamination of the area …

But what exactly the commanders of the tactical echelon units need today are air and ground remotely controlled or automated reconnaissance, observation, tracking complexes; engineering vehicles for various purposes. But whether it is justified to call all such systems and complexes robotic is a controversial question, as we have already said.

If we are talking about real robots with one or another share of artificial intelligence, then another problem is closely related to this. Achieving a significant level of development in the field of robotics is impossible without qualitative leaps and real achievements in other - related and not very related - branches of science and technology. We are talking about cybernetics, global automated control systems, new materials, nanotechnology, bionics, brain research, etc. etc. An industrially and industrially significant breakthrough in the field of robotics can only be talked about when a powerful scientific, technological and production base of the 6th technological order has been created in the country. In addition, for a military robot, everything - from a bolt to a chip - must be domestically produced. Therefore, experts are so skeptical about the bravura statements about the next, unparalleled in the world, achievements of domestic robotics.

If we carefully and impartially analyze the approaches of foreign highly developed countries to the problems of robotics, then we can conclude: they understand the importance of developing this area, but they stand on the positions of sober realism. They know how to count money abroad.

Robotics is the cutting edge of science and technology; it is also in many ways "terra incognito". It is too early to speak about any real achievements in this area, which could already have a revolutionary impact, for example, on the sphere of national security and defense, on the sphere of conducting armed struggle. It seems to us that this should be taken into account when determining the priorities for the development of weapons and military equipment for the needs of the army.

The tone in the development of robotics in the modern world is set by the civil sector of the economy and business in general. This is understandable. It is much easier to create a robotic manipulator device used to assemble a car than the most primitive remotely controlled ground transport complex for the needs of the army. The current trend is obviously justified: the movement goes from simple to complex. A military-purpose robotic complex must operate not just in a complex, but in a hostile environment. This is a fundamental requirement for any military system.

Therefore, it seems to us, the locomotive in the development of robotics in Russia should be enterprises and organizations of the military-industrial complex, which have all the resources and competencies for this, but in the near future the demand for robotic systems for civil, special and dual-use will be higher than purely military, and especially for combat purposes.

And this is the objective reality of our day.


Alexander Nikolaevich Postnikov - Colonel General, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the RF Armed Forces (2012–2014)

The relevance of the raised problem of overly broad interpretation of the concept of "robot" is beyond doubt. This problem is not as harmless as it might seem at first glance. The state and society may pay too high a price for mistakes in determining the directions of development of weapons and military equipment (AME). The situation is especially dangerous when customers understand "robot" as their own, and manufacturers as theirs! There are prerequisites for this.

Robots are needed in the army mainly to achieve two goals: replacing a person in dangerous situations or autonomously solving combat tasks previously solved by people. If the new means of warfare, supplied as robots, are not capable of solving these problems, then they are only an improvement of the existing types of weapons and military equipment. These are also needed, but they must pass according to their class. Perhaps the time has come for specialists to independently define a new class of fully autonomous weapons and military equipment, which the military today call "combat robots."

Along with this, in order to equip the armed forces with all the necessary nomenclature of weapons and military equipment in a rational proportion, it is necessary to clearly divide AME into remotely controlled, semi-autonomous and autonomous.

People have created remotely controlled mechanical devices from time immemorial. The principles have hardly changed. If hundreds of years ago, the power of air, water or steam was used to remotely perform any work, then already during the First World War, electricity began to be used for these purposes. Gigantic losses in that Great War (as it was called later) forced all countries to intensify attempts to remotely use the tanks and airplanes that appeared on the battlefield. And there were some successes already then.

For example, from Russian history we know about Ulyanin Sergei Alekseevich, colonel of the Russian army (later - Major General), aircraft designer, aeronaut, military pilot, who did a lot for the development of Russian aviation. A well-known fact: on October 10, 1915, in the Admiralty arena, Colonel S. Ulyanin demonstrated to the Maritime Department commission the operating model of the system for controlling the movement of mechanisms at a distance. The radio-controlled boat passed from Kronstadt to Peterhof.

Subsequently, during the entire twentieth century, the idea of remotely controlled equipment was actively developed in various design bureaus. Here you can recall domestic teletanks of the 30s or unmanned aerial vehicles and radio-controlled targets of the 50s - 60s.

Semi-autonomous combat vehicles began to be introduced into the armed forces of economically developed states already in the 70s of the last century. The widespread introduction of cybernetic systems into various ground, surface (underwater) or air weapons and military equipment that took place at that time makes it possible to consider them as semi-autonomous (and in some places even autonomous!) Combat systems. This process was especially convincing in the Air Defense Forces, Aviation and Navy. What are, for example, systems for warning about a rocket and space attack or control of outer space! No less automated (or, as they would say now, robotic) and various anti-aircraft missile systems. Take at least the S-300 or S-400.


In modern warfare, victory has become impossible without "aerial robots". Photo from the official website of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

Over the past two decades, the Ground Forces have also been actively automating various functions and tasks of standard weapons and military equipment. There is an intensive development of ground-based robotic vehicles used not only as vehicles, but also as carriers of weapons. Nevertheless, it seems too early to speak of this as robotization of the Ground Forces.

Today, the Armed Forces need autonomous military equipment and weapons that would correspond to the new conditions of the situation, the new battlefield. More precisely, a new combat space, which includes, along with the well-known spheres, and cyberspace. Fully autonomous domestic systems were created almost 30 years ago. Our "Buran", already back in 1988, flew into space in a completely unmanned mode with an airplane landing. However, such opportunities are not enough in our time. There are a number of fundamental requirements for modern military equipment, without which it will be ineffective on the battlefield.

For example, an urgent requirement for combat robots is the compliance of their tactical and technical characteristics with the increased dynamics of modern combat operations. Clumsy combatants can become an easy victim of the enemy. The struggle for dominance in the speed of movement on the battlefield (in a sense - "war of motors") has been characteristic throughout the last century. Today it has only worsened.

It is also important to have such robots in the Armed Forces, the maintenance of which would require minimal human intervention. Otherwise, the enemy will purposefully hit people from the support structures and will easily stop any "mechanical" army.

Insisting on the need to have autonomous robots in the Armed Forces, I understand that in the short term, the widespread introduction of various semi-autonomous technical devices and automated vehicles, which primarily solve support tasks, is most likely in the troops. Such systems are also needed.

As the special software improves, their participation in the war will expand significantly. The widespread introduction of truly autonomous robots into the ground forces of various armies of the world, according to some forecasts, can be expected in the 2020s – 2030s, when autonomous humanoid robots will become sufficiently sophisticated and relatively inexpensive for mass use in the course of hostilities.

Nevertheless, there are many problems along the way. They are associated not only with the technical features of the creation of weapons and military equipment with artificial intelligence, but also with social and legal aspects. For example, if civilians are killed due to the fault of the robot, or if the program is flawed, the robot begins to kill its soldiers - who will be responsible: the manufacturer, the programmer, the commander, or someone else?

There are many similar problematic issues. The main thing is that the war is changing its face. The role and place of the armed man in it is changing. To create a full-fledged robot requires the joint efforts of specialists from various fields of human activity. Not only gunsmiths, but to a large extent psychologists, philosophers, sociologists and specialists in the field of information technology and artificial intelligence.

The difficulty is that everything needs to be done in conditions of a pronounced lack of time.


Musa Magomedovich Khamzatov - Candidate of Military Sciences, Assistant to the Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces of the RF Armed Forces for the coordination of scientific and technical development (2010–2011)

The current situation with the introduction of robots into the armed forces very much resembles the conditions of a century ago, when the most developed countries began to massively introduce an unprecedented technique - airplanes. I will dwell on some of the similar aspects.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the vast majority of scientists and engineers had no idea about aviation. The development proceeded by a method of much trial and error, relying on the energy of enthusiasts. In addition, engineers and designers before the First World War, for the most part, could not even imagine that in a couple of war years, tens of thousands of airplanes would begin to be produced, and many enterprises would be involved in their production.

The long period of initiative research is similar, and the explosive growth of the role and place of new technology in military affairs, when the war demanded it, and the state began to give priority attention to this area.

We see similar trends in robotics. As a result, today many, including high-ranking leaders, also probably have a vague understanding of why and what kind of robots are needed in the troops.

Today, the question of whether or not to be combat robots in the armed forces is no longer an issue. The need to transfer part of the combat missions from people to various mechanical devices is considered an axiom. Robots can already recognize faces, gestures, surroundings, moving objects, distinguish sounds, work in a team, and coordinate their actions over long distances via the Web.

At the same time, the sounded conclusion that technical devices, which are now called combat robots, military robots or combat robotic complexes, should be called differently, is very relevant. Otherwise, you get confusion. For example, are robots "smart" missiles, missiles, bombs or self-targeting cluster munitions? In my opinion, no. And there are many reasons for this.

Today the problem is different - robots are advancing. Literally and figuratively. The mutual influence of two trends: the growth trend of the intelligence of "conventional" weapons (first of all, heavy) and the downward trend in the cost of computing power - marked the beginning of a new era. The era of robotic armies. The process has accelerated so much that samples of new, more advanced combat robots or combat robotic systems are being created so quickly that the previous generation becomes obsolete even before the industry begins its serial production. The consequence is the equipping of the armed forces, albeit with modern, but obsolete systems (complexes). The ambiguity of basic concepts in the field of robotics only exacerbates the problem.

The second important area on which efforts must be focused today is the active development of theoretical foundations and practical recommendations for the application and maintenance of robotics in the preparation and during combat operations.

First of all, this applies to ground combat robots, the development of which, with their great demand in modern combat, has significantly lagged behind the development of unmanned aerial vehicles.

The lag is explained by the more difficult conditions in which the ground participants in the combined arms battle have to function. In particular, all aircraft, including unmanned aerial vehicles, operate in the same environment - air. A feature of this environment is the relative uniformity of its physical properties in all directions from the starting point.

An important advantage of unmanned aerial vehicles is the possibility of their destruction only by prepared calculations using surface-to-air missiles (“air-to-air”) or specially modified small arms.

Ground-based robotic systems, unlike air ones, operate in much harsher conditions, requiring either more complex design solutions or more complex software.

Fighting almost never takes place on a flat, like a table, terrain. Ground combat vehicles have to move along a complex trajectory: up and down the landscape; overcome rivers, ditches, escarps, counter-escarps and other natural and artificial obstacles. In addition, it is necessary to evade enemy fire and take into account the possibility of mining routes of movement, etc. In fact, the driver (operator) of any combat vehicle in the course of a battle has to solve a multifactorial task with a large number of essential, but unknown and time-variable indicators. And this is in the face of extreme time pressure. Moreover, the situation on the ground sometimes changes every second, constantly demanding clarification of the decision to continue the movement.

Practice has shown that solving these problems is a difficult task. Therefore, the vast majority of modern ground-based combat robotic systems are, in fact, remotely controlled vehicles. Unfortunately, the conditions for using such robots are extremely limited. Given the possible active opposition from the enemy, such military equipment may turn out to be ineffective. And the costs of preparing it, transporting it to the combat area, using and maintaining it can significantly exceed the benefits of its actions.

No less acute today is the problem of providing artificial intelligence with information about the environment and the nature of the enemy's countermeasures. Combat robots must be able to autonomously carry out their tasks, taking into account the specific tactical situation.

For this, today it is necessary to actively work on the theoretical description and creation of algorithms for the functioning of a combat robot, not only as a separate combat unit, but also as an element of a complex system of combined arms combat. And always taking into account the peculiarities of the national military art. The problem is that the world is changing too quickly, and the specialists themselves often do not have time to realize what is important and what is not, what is the main thing, and what is a special case or a free interpretation of individual events. The latter is not so uncommon. As a rule, this is due to the lack of a clear understanding of the nature of the future war and all possible causal relationships between its participants. The problem is complex, but the value of its solution is no less important than the importance of creating a "super combat robot".

A wide range of special software is needed for the effective functioning of robots during all stages of preparation and conduct of combat operations with their participation. The main of these stages, in the most general terms, include the following: obtaining a combat mission; collection of information; planning; taking initial positions; continuous assessment of the tactical situation; combat; interaction; exit from the battle; recovery; redeployment.

In addition, the task of organizing effective semantic interaction both between people and combat robots, and between different types (of different manufacturers) combat robots, probably requires its own solution. This requires deliberate cooperation between manufacturers, especially in terms of ensuring that all machines "speak the same language." If combat robots cannot actively exchange information on the battlefield because their "languages" or technical parameters of information transfer do not match, then there is no need to talk about any joint use. Accordingly, the definition of common standards for programming, processing and exchange of information is also one of the main tasks in the creation of full-fledged combat robots.


The answer to the question of what kind of combat robots Russia needs is impossible without understanding what combat robots are for, to whom, when and in what quantity. In addition, it is necessary to agree on the terms: first of all, what to call a "combat robot".

Today, the official wording is from the "Military Encyclopedic Dictionary" posted on the official website of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation: "A combat robot is a multifunctional technical device with anthropomorphic (human-like) behavior, partially or completely performing human functions when solving certain combat missions."

The dictionary divides combat robots according to the degree of their dependence (or, more precisely, independence) from the human operator into three generations: remote-controlled, adaptive and intelligent.

The compilers of the dictionary (including the Military Scientific Committee of the General Staff of the RF Armed Forces) apparently relied on the opinion of specialists of the Main Directorate of Research Activities and Technological Support of Advanced Technologies (Innovative Research) of the RF Ministry of Defense, which determines the main directions of development in the field of creating robotic complexes in the interests of the Armed Forces, and the Main Research and Testing Center of Robotics of the RF Ministry of Defense, which is the head research organization of the RF Ministry of Defense in the field of robotics. Probably, the position of the Foundation for Advanced Study (FPI), with which the above-mentioned organizations closely cooperate on robotization issues, did not go unnoticed.

Today, the most common combat robots of the first generation (controlled devices) and systems of the second generation (semi-autonomous devices) are rapidly improving. To switch to the use of third-generation combat robots (autonomous devices), scientists are developing a self-learning system with artificial intelligence, which will combine the capabilities of the most advanced technologies in the field of navigation, visual recognition of objects, artificial intelligence, weapons, independent power supplies, camouflage, etc.

Nevertheless, the issue of terminology cannot be considered resolved, since not only Western experts do not use the term "combat robot", but also the Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation (Article 15) refers to the characteristic features of modern military conflicts "the massive use of weapons systems and military equipment … information and control systems, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles and autonomous maritime vehicles, guided robotic weapons and military equipment."

The representatives of the RF Ministry of Defense themselves see the robotization of weapons, military and special equipment as a priority direction in the development of the Armed Forces, which implies "the creation of unmanned vehicles in the form of robotic systems and military complexes for various applications."

Based on the achievements of science and the rate of introduction of new technologies in all areas of human life, in the foreseeable future, autonomous combat systems ("combat robots"), capable of solving most of the combat missions, and autonomous systems for logistical and technical support of troops can be created. But what will the war be like in 10-20 years? How to prioritize the development and deployment of combat systems of varying degrees of autonomy, taking into account the financial, economic, technological, resource and other capabilities of the state?

Speaking on February 10, 2016 at the conference "Robotization of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation", the head of the Main Research and Testing Center of Robotics of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, Colonel Sergei Popov, said that "the main goals of robotization of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are to achieve a new quality of means of armed warfare to improve the efficiency of combat missions. and reducing the loss of servicemen”.

In an interview on the eve of the conference, he literally said the following: "By using military robots, we, most importantly, will be able to reduce combat losses, minimize harm to the life and health of military personnel in the course of professional activities, and at the same time ensure the required efficiency in performing tasks as intended."

A simple replacement by a robot of a person in battle is not just humane, it is advisable if indeed "the required efficiency of performing tasks as intended is ensured." But for this, you first need to determine what is meant by the effectiveness of tasks and to what extent this approach corresponds to the financial and economic capabilities of the country.

The samples of robotics presented to the public can in no way be attributed to combat robots capable of increasing the efficiency of solving the main tasks of the Armed Forces - containing and repelling possible aggression.

A huge territory, extreme physical-geographical and weather-climatic conditions of some regions of the country, an extended state border, demographic restrictions and other factors require the development and creation of remotely controlled and semi-autonomous systems capable of solving the tasks of protecting and defending borders on land, at sea, under water and in aerospace.

Tasks such as countering terrorism; protection and defense of important state and military facilities, communications facilities; ensuring public safety; participation in the elimination of emergency situations - are already partially solved with the help of robotic complexes for various purposes.

Creation of robotic combat systems for conducting combat operations against the enemy both on a "traditional battlefield" with the presence of a contact line of the parties (even if it is rapidly changing), and in an urbanized military-civilian environment with a chaotically changing situation, where the usual combat formations of troops are absent, as well should be among the priorities. At the same time, it is useful to take into account the experience of other countries involved in military robotics, which is a very costly project from a financial point of view.

Currently, about 40 countries, including the United States, Russia, Great Britain, France, China, Israel, South Korea, are developing robots capable of fighting without human participation.

Today, 30 states are developing and producing up to 150 types of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), of which 80 have been adopted by 55 armies of the world. Although unmanned aerial vehicles do not belong to classical robots, since they do not reproduce human activity, they are usually referred to as robotic systems.

During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States had only a few dozen UAVs and not a single ground robot. In 2009, they already had 5,300 UAVs, and in 2013 - more than 7,000. The massive use of improvised explosive devices by the rebels in Iraq caused a sharp acceleration in the development of ground robots by the Americans. In 2009, the US Armed Forces already had more than 12 thousand robotic ground devices.

To date, about 20 samples of remotely controlled ground vehicles for the army have been developed. The Air Force and Navy are working on roughly the same number of air, surface and submarine systems.

The world experience of using robots shows that the robotization of industry is many times ahead of other areas of their use, including the military. That is, the development of robotics in civilian industries fuels its development for military purposes.

To design and create combat robots, trained people are needed: designers, mathematicians, engineers, technologists, assemblers, etc. But not only they should be prepared by the modern education system of Russia, but also those who will use and maintain them. We need those who are able to coordinate the robotization of military affairs and the evolution of war in strategies, plans, programs.

How to treat the development of cyborg fighting robots? Apparently, international and national legislation should determine the limits of the introduction of artificial intelligence in order to prevent the possibility of a rebellion of machines against humans and the destruction of humanity.

The formation of a new psychology of war and warrior will be required. The state of danger is changing, not a man, but a machine goes to war. Whom to reward: a deceased robot or an "office soldier" sitting behind a monitor far from the battlefield, or even on another continent.

All these are serious problems that require the most careful attention to themselves.


Boris Gavrilovich Putilin - Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor, veteran of the GRU General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation

The topic announced at this round table is, of course, important and necessary. The world does not stand still, equipment and technologies do not stand still. New systems of weapons and military equipment, fundamentally new means of destruction are constantly appearing, which have a revolutionary impact on the conduct of armed struggle, on the forms and methods of using forces and means. Fighting robots fall into this category.

I fully agree that the terminology in the field of robotics has not yet been developed. There are many definitions, but there are even more questions for them. For example, here is how the American space agency NASA interprets this term: “Robots are machines that can be used to do work. Some robots can do the job on their own. Other robots should always have a human to tell them what to do. " Definitions of this kind only completely confuse the whole situation.

Once again we are convinced that science often does not keep pace with the pace of life and the changes taking place in the world. Scientists and experts may argue about what to mean by the term "robot", but these creations of the human mind have already entered our lives.

On the other hand, you cannot use this term right and left without thinking about its content. Remotely controlled platforms - by wire or radio - are not robots. The so-called teletanks were tested with us even before the Great Patriotic War. Obviously, real robots can only be called autonomous devices that are capable of acting without human participation, or at least with his minimal participation. Another thing is that on the way to creating such robots, you need to go through the intermediate stage of remotely controlled devices. This is all movement in one direction.

Combat robots, regardless of their appearance, degree of autonomy, capabilities and abilities, rely on "sense organs" - sensors and sensors of different types and purposes. Already, reconnaissance drones equipped with various surveillance systems are flying in the sky over the battlefield. In the US Armed Forces, a variety of battlefield sensors have been created and are widely used, capable of seeing, hearing, analyzing smells, feeling vibrations and transmitting these data to a unified command and control system. The task is to achieve absolute information awareness, that is, to completely dispel the very "fog of war" that Karl von Clausewitz once wrote about.

Can these sensors and sensors be called robots? Separately, probably not, but together they create a voluminous robotic system for collecting, processing and displaying intelligence information. Tomorrow, such a system will operate autonomously, independently, without human intervention, making decisions about the feasibility, sequence and methods of engaging objects and targets identified on the battlefield. This all fits, by the way, into the concept of network-centric military operations being actively implemented in the United States.

In December 2013, the Pentagon released the Integrated Roadmap for Unmanned Systems 2013-2038, which articulates a vision for robotic systems development for 25 years ahead and identifies directions and ways for the US Department of Defense and industry to achieve this vision.

It contains interesting facts that allow us to judge where our competitors are moving in this area. In particular, in total in the US Armed Forces in mid-2013 there were 11,064 unmanned aerial vehicles of various classes and purposes, 9765 of which belonged to the 1st group (tactical mini-UAVs).

The development of ground-based unmanned systems for the next two and a half decades, at least in the open version of the document, does not imply the creation of combat vehicles carrying weapons. The main efforts are directed to transport and logistics platforms, engineering vehicles, exploration complexes, including RCBR. In particular, work in the field of creating robotic systems for reconnaissance on the battlefield is concentrated in the period up to 2015-2018 - on the "Ultra-light reconnaissance robot" project, and after 2018 - on the "Nano / microrobot" project.

An analysis of the distribution of appropriations for the development of robotic systems of the US Department of Defense shows that 90% of all expenses go to UAVs, just over 9% to sea and about 1% to ground systems. This clearly reflects the direction of concentration of the main efforts in the field of military robotics overseas.

Well, and one more fundamentally important point. The problem of fighting robots has some features that make this class of robots completely independent and distinct. This must be understood. Fighting robots have weapons by definition, which makes them different from the broader class of military robots. A weapon in the hands of a robot, even if the robot is under the control of an operator, is a dangerous thing. We all know that sometimes even a stick shoots. The question is - shoots at whom? Who will give a 100% guarantee that the control of the robot will not be intercepted by the enemy? Who guarantees the absence of a malfunction in the artificial "brains" of the robot and the impossibility of introducing viruses into them? Whose commands will this robot execute in this case?

And if we imagine for a moment that such robots end up in the hands of terrorists, for whom human life is nothing, not to mention a mechanical "toy" with a suicide bomber's belt.

When releasing gin from the bottle, you need to think about the consequences. And the fact that people do not always think about the consequences is evidenced by the growing movement around the world to ban attack drones. Unmanned aerial vehicles with a complex of onboard weapons, operated from the territory of the United States thousands of kilometers from the Greater Middle East region, bring death from heaven not only to terrorists, but also to unsuspecting civilians. Then UAV pilots' mistakes are attributed to collateral or accidental non-combat losses - that's all. But in this situation, at least there is someone to specifically ask for a war crime. But if robotic UAVs decide for themselves who to strike and who to leave to live - what will we do?

And yet, progress in the field of robotics is a natural process that no one can stop. Another thing is that now it is necessary to take steps to internationally control work in the field of artificial intelligence and combat robotics.


Evgeniy Viktorovich Demidyuk - Candidate of Technical Sciences, Chief Designer of JSC "Scientific and Production Enterprise" Kant"


The spacecraft "Buran" has become a triumph of domestic engineering. Illustration from the American Yearbook "Soviet Military Power", 1985

Without pretending to be the ultimate truth, I consider it necessary to clarify the widely used concept of “robot”, especially “combat robot”. The breadth of technical means to which it is applied today is not entirely acceptable for a number of reasons. Here are just a few of them.

The extremely wide range of tasks now assigned to military robots (the listing of which requires a separate article) does not fit into the historically established concept of a “robot” as a machine, with its inherent human-like behavior. So "Explanatory Dictionary of the Russian Language" by S. I. Ozhegova and N. Yu. Shvedova (1995) gives the following definition: "A robot is an automaton that performs actions similar to those of a person." The Military Encyclopedic Dictionary (1983) somewhat expands this concept, indicating that a robot is an automatic system (machine) equipped with sensors, actuators, capable of behaving purposefully in a changing environment. But it is immediately indicated that the robot has a characteristic feature of anthropomorphism - that is, the ability to partially or completely perform human functions.

"Polytechnic Dictionary" (1989) gives the following concept. "A robot is a machine with anthropomorphic (human-like) behavior, which partially or completely performs human functions when interacting with the outside world."

The very detailed definition of a robot given in GOST RISO 8373-2014 does not take into account the goals and objectives of the military field and is limited to the gradation of robots by functional purpose into two classes - industrial and service robots.

The very concept of a "military" or "combat" robot, as a machine with anthropomorphic behavior, designed to harm a person, contradicts the original concepts given by their creators. For example, how do the three famous laws of robotics, first formulated by Isaac Asimov in 1942, fit into the concept of "combat robot"? After all, the first law clearly states: "A robot cannot harm a person or, by its inaction, allow harm to be done to a person."

In the situation under consideration, one cannot but agree with the aphorism: to name correctly - to understand correctly. Where can we conclude that the concept "robot" so widely used in military circles to denote cyber-technical means requires replacing it with a more appropriate one.

In our opinion, in the search for a compromise definition of machines with artificial intelligence, created for military tasks, it would be reasonable to seek help from technical cybernetics, which studies technical control systems. In accordance with its provisions, the correct definition for such a class of machines would be the following: cybernetic combat (support) systems or platforms (depending on the complexity and scope of the tasks being solved: complexes, functional units). You can also introduce the following definitions: cyber combat vehicle (KBM) - for solving combat missions; cybernetic machine for technical support (KMTO) - for solving problems of technical support. Although more concise and convenient for use and perception, it is possible that simply "cyber" (combat or transport) will be.

Another, no less urgent problem today - with the rapid development of military-purpose robotic systems in the world, little attention is paid to proactive measures to control their use and counter such use.

You don't need to look far for examples. For example, the general increase in the number of uncontrolled flights of UAVs of various classes and purposes has become so obvious that this is forcing lawmakers around the world to pass laws on government regulation of their use.

The introduction of such legislative acts is timely and due to:

- the availability of acquiring a "drone" and gaining control skills for any student who has learned to read the operating and piloting instructions. At the same time, if such a student has minimal technical literacy, then he does not need to buy finished products: it is enough to purchase cheap components (engines, blades, supporting structures, receiving and transmitting modules, a video camera, etc.) through online stores and assemble the UAV himself without any registration;

- the absence of a continuous daily controlled surface air environment (extremely low altitudes) over the entire territory of any state. The exception is very limited in area (on a national scale) areas of the airspace over airports, some sections of the state border, special security facilities;

- potential threats posed by "drones". It can be argued indefinitely that a small-sized "drone" is harmless to others and is only suitable for video filming or launching soap bubbles. But progress in the development of weapons of destruction is unstoppable. Systems of self-organizing combat small-sized UAVs, operating on the basis of swarm intelligence, are already being developed. In the near future, this may have very complex consequences for the security of society and the state;

- the lack of a sufficiently developed legislative and regulatory framework governing the practical aspects of the use of UAVs. The presence of such rules already now will allow narrowing the field of potential dangers from "drones" in populated areas. In this regard, I would like to draw your attention to the announced mass production of controlled copters - flying motorcycles - in China.

Along with the above, the lack of elaboration of effective technical and organizational means of control, prevention and suppression of UAV flights, especially small ones, is of particular concern. When creating such means, it is necessary to take into account a number of requirements for them: firstly, the cost of means of countering a threat should not exceed the cost of means of creating the threat itself and, secondly, the safety of using means of countering UAVs for the population (environmental, sanitary, physical and etc.).

Certain work is underway to resolve this problem. Of practical interest are developments on the formation of a reconnaissance and information field in surface airspace through the use of illumination fields created by third-party radiation sources, for example, electromagnetic fields of operating cellular networks. The implementation of this approach provides control over small-sized airborne objects flying almost at the very ground and at extremely low speeds. Such systems are being actively developed in some countries, including Russia.

So, the domestic radio-optical complex "Rubezh" allows you to form a reconnaissance and information field wherever an electromagnetic field of cellular communication exists and is available. The complex operates in a passive mode and does not require special permits for use, does not have a harmful unsanitary effect on the population and is electromagnetically compatible with all existing wireless gadgets. Such a complex is most effective when controlling UAV flights in surface airspace over populated areas, crowded areas, etc.

It is also important that the aforementioned complex is capable of monitoring not only air objects (from UAVs to light-engine sports aircraft at altitudes up to 300 m), but also ground (surface) objects.

The development of such systems should be given the same increased attention as the systemic development of various samples of robotics.


Dmitry Sergeevich Kolesnikov - Head of Autonomous Vehicle Service, KAMAZ Innovation Center LLC

Today we are witnessing significant changes in the global automotive industry. After the transition to the Euro-6 standard, the potential for improving internal combustion engines is practically exhausted. Transport automation is emerging as a new basis for competition in the automotive market.

While the introduction of autonomy technologies in passenger cars is self-explanatory, the question of why an autopilot is needed for a truck is still open and requires an answer.

Firstly, safety, which entails the preservation of people's lives and the safety of goods. Secondly, efficiency, since the use of the autopilot leads to an increase in the daily mileage up to 24 hours of the vehicle operating mode. Thirdly, productivity (increase in road capacity by 80–90%). Fourthly, efficiency, since the use of an autopilot leads to a decrease in operating costs and the cost of one kilometer of mileage.

Self-driving vehicles are increasing their presence in our daily life every day. The degree of autonomy of these products is different, but the trend towards complete autonomy is obvious.

Within the automotive industry, five stages of automation can be distinguished, depending on the degree of human decision-making (see table).

It is important to note that in the stages from “No automation” to “Conditional automation” (Stages 0-3), the functions are solved using the so-called driver assistance systems. Such systems are fully aimed at increasing traffic safety, while the stages of "High" and "Full" automation (Stages 4 and 5) are aimed at replacing a person in technological processes and operations. At these stages, new markets for services and the use of vehicles begin to form, the status of the car changes from a product used to solve a given problem to a product that solves a given problem, that is, at these stages, a partially autonomous vehicle is transformed into a robot.

The fourth stage of automation corresponds to the emergence of robots with a high degree of autonomous control (the robot informs the operator-driver about the planned actions, a person can influence his actions at any time, but in the absence of a response from the operator, the robot makes a decision independently).

The fifth stage is a completely autonomous robot, all decisions are made by it, a person cannot interfere in the decision-making process.

The modern legal framework does not allow the use of robotic vehicles with a degree of autonomy of 4 and 5 on public roads, in connection with which the use of autonomous vehicles will begin in areas where it is possible to form a local regulatory framework: closed logistics complexes, warehouses, internal territories of large factories, and also areas of increased danger to human health.

The tasks of autonomous transportation of goods and the performance of technological operations for the commercial segment of cargo transportation are reduced to the following tasks: the formation of robotic transport columns, monitoring the gas pipeline, removing rock from the quarries, cleaning the territory, cleaning the runways, transporting goods from one zone of the warehouse to another. All of these application scenarios challenge developers to use existing off-the-shelf components and easily adaptable software for autonomous vehicles (to reduce the cost of 1 km of transportation).

However, the tasks of autonomous movement in an aggressive environment and in emergency situations, such as inspection and examination of emergency zones for the purpose of visual and radiation-chemical monitoring, determining the location of objects and the state of technological equipment in the accident zone, identifying the locations and nature of damage to emergency equipment, carrying out engineering work on clearing rubble and dismantling emergency structures, collecting and transporting hazardous objects to the area of their disposal - require the developer to fulfill special requirements for reliability and strength.

In this regard, the electronic industry of the Russian Federation faces the task of developing a unified modular component base: sensors, sensors, computers, control units for solving problems of autonomous movement both in the civil sector and when operating in difficult conditions of emergency situations.

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