MOSCOW (Agencies): The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine is witnessing a notable shift in warfare dynamics, with both nations grappling with a manpower shortage. In response, a new facet has emerged as “crude ground robots” are being employed to fulfill soldier roles on the battlefield.
A recent video circulated on Kremlin-affiliated social media showcased a Russian unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) allegedly delivering supplies to frontline troops, navigating Ukrainian mini-drones, and participating in the transport of a wounded soldier. The use of such robotic platforms is seen as a response to the threats posed by armed aerial drones and artillery, which target troop movements on the Ukrainian frontlines.
Sam Bendett, a research analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses think tank, notes that these “simple, DIY platforms” are now being utilized for tasks like logistics, supply, and evacuation, which are susceptible to discovery and attacks.
Amid indications that both Russia and Ukraine are struggling to find enough volunteers to join their armed forces, there are reports of efforts to mobilize citizens and encourage military contracts. The annual autumn conscription draft in Russia, initiated in October, has brought in approximately 130,000 new recruits. While Moscow insists that conscripts won’t be sent to Ukraine, they automatically become reservists after a year of service, making them potential candidates for mobilization.
Ukraine faces a similar challenge, needing to replace tens of thousands of casualties. However, reluctance among Ukrainian men to enlist has led to various methods to avoid recruitment. President Volodymyr Zelensky has responded by dismissing regional heads of recruitment amid widespread allegations of misconduct.
In this context, the role of artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous systems has gained global attention. Ukraine is reportedly testing the IRONCLAD, an advanced unmanned robot designed to support assaults, conduct reconnaissance, and offer fire support, reducing the risk to soldiers’ lives through remote operations.
Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, highlights IRONCLAD’s features, including speeds of up to 20 kilometers per hour, a thermal imaging camera, combat turret, and remote operational capabilities. The robot can effectively navigate the battlefield and contribute to various military functions.
This development is mirrored in Russia, where the Zubilo robot, a 13.3-ton assault ground vehicle, is undergoing battlefield tests in Ukraine. Zubilo serves as an unmanned transport system, capable of carrying payloads, providing ammunition delivery, cargo transportation, casualty evacuation, and supporting communication systems.
The Ukraine conflict is emerging as a multifaceted test case for AI, with both nations leveraging autonomous systems in disinformation campaigns, drone operations, intelligence gathering, facial recognition technology, cyber defense, and more. The use of “crude ground robots” marks a notable evolution in modern warfare strategies.