головнаUkraine has intensified domestic R&D activities aimed to develop multi-role ground robotic platforms suitable to support intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance (ISR) missions, combat missions, and other tasks. These activities, however at the initial stage only, have already produced prototypes which have been demonstrated to potential customers, among them the Defense Ministry.


Kyiv-based PJSC Lenkuznya is now working on a private venture project to build the Piranha – an unmanned combat and support robotic system. This is designed with a modular architecture allowing its tracked platform to accept different payloads including a fire support module with a 12.7mm machinegun or a UAG-40-class grenade launcher, and an ISR module, and it can be reconfigured for cargo transport.


The ISR payload will include the Anti-Sniper -- an indigenously developed sensor system (developed by UaRpa) equipped for battlefield surveillance and counter-sniper tasks.
In another configuration, the Piranha will be integrated with the battery fire control system “Kropyva” to assist artillery spotting in conjunction with UAV assets.

The domestic lineup of unmanned combat ground vehicles (UCGVs) will also include the Phantom, a multi-role 6x6 robotic vehicle designed to support combat and ISR missions, and to transport battlefield supplies. The Phantom UCGV is a collaborative project by Spetstechnoeksport Import/Export Firm, Kyiv Armor Pant and partner companies.



Phantom and Phantom 2

As claimed by its designer, the Phantom will be controlled via a secured radio connection within 2.5 km, or alternatively via a cable connection within a 5 km radius. Its electric motor will be able of max speed of 38 km/h and max range of 20 km. The vehicle is designed with water fording capability of 500 mm and payload capacity of up to 350 kg.
Weapon payload options include small arms weapons and anti-tank missile launchers. An infra-red camera will be included in the equipment set for night-time operation.

The Phantom will be operated by a crew of two (system operator and weapons operator).

Along with indigenous development of unmanned robotic systems based on wheeled and tracked platforms, Ukraine is seeking to integrate existing technology solutions for remote control of production robotic systems on wheeled and tracked platforms. This path has already been explored by many countries worldwide.

In Ukraine, Infocom Ltd, Zaporizhia, partnered with AvtoKrAZ to develop and demonstrate the first domestic prototype of the Spartan APC vehicle equipped with automated driving system named Pilotdrive. The vehicle can be controlled remotely via a tablet PC, a smart glove or an operator station. WiFi/Wimax network is used to control the vehicle within a radius of 10 to 50 km.



Spartan APC

The prototype KrAZ Spartan is fitted out with a spatial sensing system for autonomous navigation. This integrates an IR imaging camera, automated target tracking and lock-on sensors, a 360 degree camera, front and rear radars for obstacle spotting and danger avoidance, a rangefinder, and a sensor to detect human presence within a 18 m range. In a fraction of a second, the road situation analysis and decision-making system will recognize the obstruction ahead and provide corrective action.
The Spartan is additionally outfitted with the SmartDrive hardware-software system and the Teach-inDrive route memory system.
The unmanned robotic KrAZ Spartan vehicle is designed to help minimize risk and save lives of soldiers in different tactical scenarios involving the transportation of supplies (ammunition, fuel and medical aid stores), and evacuation of wounded casualties from the battlefield.

Mock designs and working models of indigenously-developed UCGVs imply they essentially are all radio-controlled robotic vehicles. As the vehicles are all controlled from a fixed-base facility, there needs to be visibility between any given vehicle and its respective control center. So the vehicles will be most effective and efficient when operated on a favorable, flat terrain allowing unobstructed communication. But they still need to learn to move over complex terrains – woodlands, cities and rural areas, and especially in ECM heavy conditions.

In the near future, we can hardly expect that unmanned robotic vehicles will participate in attacks alongside tanks or infantry fighting vehicles, as this job is more effectively done with conventional manned vehicles. The converse of this is that the Israel Army, for example, has since 2008 operationally deployed the unmanned ground vehicle Guardium that is used to combat and guard against invaders along Gaza’s borders. But to achieve this, Israel -- one of the world’s leaders in the unmanned robotic vehicle domain -- had to solve a great range of technology problems, which Ukrainian industries are just beginning to do with initiatives like "Piranha" and "Phantom".

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense announced the beginning of work to develop operational requirements for unmanned ground robotic systems, while simultaneously forced to acknowledge that “government funding for relevant research and development projects, unfortunately, has not been provided". It also noted special importance of a comprehensive study exploring the place and role of unmanned robotic platforms in the future Armed Forces armaments system. It is also important to develop advanced methods of how to operationally deploy unmanned ground robotic platforms and robotic vehicle units.

In this context, there is need to develop a long-term concept on the use of military robotic systems, along with a medium-term R&D program on robotic platforms for general-purpose and combined-purpose uses (i.e. suitable for ground, air and naval applications, or a combination of these).
As seen from the proposed Concept and R&D Program, the country’s military is interested in a wide assortment of robotic vehicles ranging in weight from several tens of kilograms to several tens of tons. This could drive businesses, both government-run and privately-own, to intensify their R&D effort in this particular domain, in the hope of attracting interest from potential military customers.


Serhiy Zghurets, Defense Express

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