After 15 years of fighting the War on Terror, Americans have become thoroughly acquainted with automated warfare. Drones are no longer a novelty, especially after Obama took office and started deploying them like there was no tomorrow. However, there is no reason to think that these machines are the end point of automated warfare. If anything, they are just the beginning. As technology advances, we can expect to see more robots show up in every active and supporting role the military has to offer. That of course, will include land based drones.
Despite spending two decades developing land based drones, it’s not the US who is going to break ground in this field, but a Russian state-owned corporation known as Rosoboronexport. They’ve just developed the very first tank drone, and they are expected to sell it on the international market in the very near future.
Rosoboronexport expects that the robotic combat vehicle will mostly be used to provide fire support for counter-terrorism units, reconnaissance units and possibly light or mechanized infantry forces. “The Uran-9 will be particularly useful during local military and counter-terror operations, including those in cities. Its use will significantly reduce personnel casualties,” the Russian state-owned export company said in a statement.
Each Uran-9 combat vehicle is armed with a 2A72 30mm automatic cannon, a 7.62mm machine gun and M120 Ataka anti-tank guided missiles, giving the machines a significant punch. The inclusion of the Ataka missiles gives the diminutive robot the capability to engage and destroy the most modern battle tanks from ranges as great as 8,000 meters. The robots are also fitted with an array of sensors—including a laser warning system and target detection, identification and tracking equipment.
The Uran-9 system is not just a single vehicle. It’s a complete system that can be deployed with an infantry unit. The system consists of two robotic reconnaissance/fire support vehicles, a truck to carry those robots and a mobile command post.
Make no mistake however, this has far greater implications than airborne drones ever did. This isn’t just going to be a ground based version of a reaper drone. It’s going to change the game for warfare, and for human society. And even if it doesn’t do this right away, it is a first step towards radically changing society, and not for the better. Here’s why:
The history of human warfare has always been just that. Human warfare. There has always been a person somewhere in the loop. Specifically, there has always been some guy with a gun or a sword or a spear, who is doing the dirty work of someone more powerful than him. He is the lowest common denominator of any military. He is intrinsic. Even more so than naval or air power. The infantryman is ultimately the most important contributor to any war, because every tank, plane, missile, and ship is deployed with the intent of helping him gain and hold ground. The buck always stops with an armed human being.
If we begin to automate land warfare, and start replacing these grunts with machines, it’s going to irrevocably change society. For most of human history, the rulers have always had to find some way to convince other people to fight in their name. They’ve done this either by compensation with money, loot, and slaves, or with some kind of ideology. But what happens when machines take the role of the grunt? What happens if the elites no longer have to convince people to fight for them?
It means that they no longer have to please us. They don’t even have to consider us. Today, even the most tyrannical of regimes have a line they can’t cross if they don’t want a rebellion, especially if their armed forces consist of conscripts. But the day these land based drones start to replace infantrymen, is the day any government with sufficient funds can do whatever they want to their population.
And they don’t have to fully replace human soldiers for this to happen. Every military has a certain number of people who will follow orders no matter what, as well as a number of people who won’t do things like say, round-up private firearms or kill their civilian countrymen. The government just need enough drones that are advanced enough to replace those who are not compliant, and they can do whatever they want to their population.
Of course, the worst case scenario would be a world where no infantrymen are required, because then the success of any rebellion would hinge on nothing more than how many dollars and factories the ruling class control. Even in the United States, the land of the Second Amendment, the population would not have the weapons required counter such a threat.
In other words, every government that can afford land based drones, has the potential to turn into an unstoppable tyranny. In the past, when the foot-soldiers of the government were made of flesh, and the population held weapons that could hurt them, there was only so much a government could do. But with tanks like the Uran-9, and the more advanced land based drones that are sure to come, resistance will be futile more times than not.