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Ukrainian Combat Robots Join Fight Against Russian Invasion

David Hambling wrote . . . . . . . . .

Ukrainian forces are getting a new helper, a locally made robotic battlefield scout called GNOM (“Gnome”). The small machine will stealthily reconnoiter Russian positions and provide fire support with a machinegun, according to its maker, a company called Temerland that’s based in Zaporizhia. Gnomes versus ‘Orcs’ may sound like fantasy, but the first robots will enter service next week, the company said in a statement.

While drones seem to be ever-present, remotely operated robots, or Uncrewed Ground Vehicles (UGVs), have so far played little part in this conflict. As the battle lines have stabilized, both forces are increasingly using of portable radio-frequency jammers to knock drones out of the sky which may reduce their impact. GNOM offers an alternative, jam-proof way to spy remotely.

Not much larger than a microwave oven and weighing 50 kg (110 pounds), Temerland says GNOM is highly mobile on four large wheels with 4×4 drive and a quiet 5-horsepower electric motor. The current version is armed with a 7.62mm machinegun. U.S. Army research shows that UGVs make stable firing platforms, allowing a remote gunner to hit targets with considerable accuracy.

While most UGVs are radio-controlled, GNOM spools out a reel of fiber-optic cable behind it. Eduard Trotsenko, CEO and owner of Temerland, told me that the tough, wear-resistant cable provides a broadband link which is immune to radio countermeasures.

“Control of GNOM is possible in the most aggressive environment during the operation of the enemy’s electronic warfare equipment,” says Trotsenko.

Also because the operator is not using a radio, they cannot be detected and targeted by artillery, which may happen to drone operators.

“The operator doesn’t deploy a control station with an antenna, and does not unmask his position,” says Trotsenko. “The cable is not visible, and it also does not create thermal radiation that could be seen by a thermal imager.”

Similar arrangements with fiber optics were used for guided missiles in the early 2000s, notably the French Polyphem and U.S. Army EFOG-M, as well as DARPA’s Close Combat Lethal Recon munition, which developed into the Switchblade. They are also used for some tethered drones and also for remotely operated underwater vehicles, but the sort of electronic warfare seen in Ukraine may see a new demand for fiber-optic control for UGVs.

GNOM’s cable gives it a range of 2,000 meters (1.25 miles); if it is broken the vehicle automatically returns to a predetermined location. While it is usually operated by remote control, GNOM clearly has some onboard intelligence and is capable of autonomous navigation. Previous Temerland designs have included advanced neural network and machine learning hardware and software providing a high degree of autonomy, so the company seems to have experience.

Trotsenko says the machinegun allows GNOM to defend itself and also to provide fire support in situations which might be too dangerous for personnel. He notes that other versions of the GNOM can be used for logistics, intelligence gathering, sabotage and engineering. Temerland has previously shown off a cargo carrier GNOM able to bring ammunition or other supplies to the front line, which can also evacuate casualties with the addition of a special trailer.

A more aggressive GNOM delivers TM62 anti-tank mines: Temerland released a YouTube video showing the robot driving underneath an enemy vehicle and detonating. From underneath, the mines’ 7-kg explosive charge will destroy the heaviest tank, but even getting close should be enough to damage a track and immobilize it. (The Australian Army signed a contract for similar kamikaze ground robots last year).

“Work is underway on mobile platforms for transporting mines,” says Trotsenko. “New designs are being tested.”

Previously the company has announced other possible GNOM variants armed with anti-tank missiles or acting as communications relays or drone carriers.

For the meantime, GNOM will be on scouting duty. Temerland developers say that the vehicle is nearly silent and has a low profile. It can be equipped with a 360-degree camera on a telescoping mast to give a detailed view of the surroundings.

Ukraine fields other remote systems, including a sedan armed with a remote-controlled 14.5mm heavy machinegun, but the GNOM will be the first robotic vehicle on the scene. Russia also has military robots, but so far the only units seen in Ukraine are Uran-6 demining robots; the Uran-9 robotic tank, which performed poorly in Syria, has not shown up in this war.

Tactical robots have long been promoted as a way to reduce casualties and keep soldiers out of the line of fire, while maintaining contact with the enemy. GNOM may prove invaluable for getting a close view of Russian forces – and directing artillery fire on to them – without risking Ukrainian lives.

As the war rages in Ukraine, manufacturers are rolling out large numbers UGVs at the Eurosatory 2022 trade show, some larger and seemingly more sophisticated and more expensive than the GNOM. But the success or otherwise of the small Ukrainian robot in action may do more to shape the future of remote warfare than any of them.

Source : Forbes

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Chart: NATO Countries Have Heavily Cut Troop Levels

Source : Statista

DARPA Large Seaplane Liberty Lifter Aims to Revolutionize Heavy Air Lift

DARPA has launched the Liberty Lifter project to demonstrate a leap in operational logistics capabilities by designing, building, and flying a long-range, low-cost X-plane capable of seaborne strategic and tactical lift. The new vehicle concept seeks to expand upon existing cargo aircraft by proving revolutionary heavy air lift abilities from the sea.

The envisioned plane will combine fast and flexible strategic lift of very large, heavy loads with the ability to take off/land in water. Its structure will enable both highly controlled flight close to turbulent water surfaces and sustained flight at mid-altitudes. In addition, the plane will be built with a low-cost design and construction philosophy.

Although current sealift is very efficient in transporting large amounts of payload, it is vulnerable to threats, requires functional ports, and results in long transit times. Traditional airlift is much faster, but has limited ability to support maritime operations. Additionally, today, such aircraft suffer payload limitations or require long runways.

There is a history of attempting to develop aircraft created to fly with “wing-in-ground effect,” which means the aircraft is flying no more than the length of its wingspan above ground or water. The most well-known examples are the Soviet “ekranoplans.” These vehicles were high speed and runway- independent, but were restricted to calm waters and had limited maneuverability.

“This first phase of the Liberty Lifter program will define the unique seaplane’s range, payloads, and other parameters,” said Alexander Walan, a program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “Innovative advances envisioned by this new DARPA program will showcase an X-plane demonstrator that offers warfighters new capabilities during extended maritime operations.”

To address the shortcomings of existing vehicles and operational concepts, the Liberty Lifter program focuses on addressing three main challenges.

Extended Maritime Operations: Emphasis will be placed on operating in turbulent sea states by creating high-lift abilities at low speeds to reduce wave impact load during takeoff/landing, and innovative design solutions to absorb wave forces. In addition, the project will address risks of vehicle collision during high-speed operation in congested environments. Finally, the aim is for the vehicle to operate at sea for weeks at a time without land-based maintenance activities.

Full-Scale Affordable Production: Construction will prioritize low-cost, easy-to-fabricate designs over exquisite, low-weight concepts. Materials should be more affordable than those in traditional aircraft manufacturing and available to be purchased in large quantities.

Complex Flight and Sea Surface Controls: Advanced sensors and control schemes will be developed to avoid large waves and to handle aero/hydro-dynamic interactions during takeoff/landing.

Source : Darpa

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Infographic: U.S. and Russia’s Biggest Arms Trading Partners

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Source : Visual Capitalist

China Military Body May be Target of Japan Counterstrike Capability

Speculation is growing in security circles in Japan as to whether targets of a proposed “counterstrike capability” would include China’s Central Military Commission, the highest decision-making organ of the country’s armed forces led by President Xi Jinping.

The speculation came to light in a parliamentary meeting last week when the Defense Ministry did not answer directly a question from an opposition lawmaker seeking to know whether what has until recently been called “enemy base attack capability” targets would include China’s CMC.

The meeting came after the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on April 27 suggested Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government acquire counterstrike capability to attack enemy bases and “command and control functions.”

The LDP has yet to clearly say what such functions entail but defense experts say the proposed capability could cover command centers issuing orders for missile attacks and would expand Japan’s options for retaliating against mobile- and submarine-launched missiles.

In a meeting last Wednesday of the House of Representatives Committee of Foreign Affairs, Japanese Communist Party member Keiji Kokuta asked if the government envisages the CMC and the Five Theater Commands as among the targets of a counterstrike capability.

The five commands are in charge of defense of the eastern, southern, western, northern and central regions of China. The Eastern Theater Command, for example, oversees Taiwan, Japan and the East China Sea.

Masahisa Sato, director of the LDP Foreign Affairs Division, and other security experts say China has about 1,900 short- and medium-range missiles that can reach Japan.

Kokuta cited a document the Japanese Ground Staff Office used in an internal meeting in September 2017.

The document shows an organizational chart of the Chinese military and says there is a command system between the CMC and the Five Theater Commands.

Kokuta said the LDP proposal does not exclude the CMC and the five commands from possible targets, and asked, “Wouldn’t this lead to a full-scale war with China?”

Makoto Oniki, deputy minister of defense, did not directly address the question and said, “Attacking the base of a guided missile would constitutionally fall under the scope of self-defense if (the government) perceives there were no other means (to defend Japan).”

Oniki said he is not in a position to comment on the LDP proposal, which also includes a call to double Japan’s defense budget to 2 percent or more of gross domestic product over five years.

The LDP wants the proposal to be reflected when the government revises the National Security Strategy and other documents by the end of the year.

Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said the government is considering adopting a counterstrike capability “without ruling out any possible option so as to fully prepare ourselves for safeguarding people’s lives.”

LDP lawmakers hope developing a counterstrike capability will serve as a deterrent against possible attacks on Japan, especially in light of China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region and North Korea’s nuclear and missile development.

Critics, however, say such a measure would represent a major shift from Japan’s exclusively self-defense-oriented security posture under its war-renouncing Constitution.

Source : The Mainichi

Ukraine: What Have been Russia’s Military Mistakes?

Jonathan Beale wrote . . . . . . . . .

Russia has one of the largest and most powerful armed forces in the world, but that has not been apparent in its initial invasion of Ukraine. Many military analysts in the West have been surprised by its performance on the battlefield so far, with one describing it as “dismal”.

Its military advances appear to have largely stalled and some now question whether it can recover from the losses it has suffered. This week, a senior Nato military official told the BBC, “the Russians clearly have not achieved their goals and probably will not at the end of the day”. So what has gone wrong? I have spoken to senior Western military officers and intelligence officials, about the mistakes Russia has made.

Misguided assumptions

Russia’s first mistake was to underestimate the strength of resistance and the capabilities of Ukraine’s own smaller armed forces. Russia has an annual defence budget of more than $60bn, compared with Ukraine’s spending of just over $4bn.

At the same time, Russia, and many others, appear to have overestimated its own military strengths. President Putin had embarked on an ambitious modernisation programme for his military and he too may have believed his own hype.

A senior British military official said much of Russia’s investment had been spent on its vast nuclear arsenal and experimentation, that included developing new weapons such as hypersonic missiles. Russia is supposed to have built the world’s most advanced tank – the T-14 Armata. But while it has been seen on Moscow’s Victory Day Parade on Red Square, it has been missing in battle. Most of what Russia has fielded are older T-72 tanks, armoured personnel carriers, artillery and rocket launchers.

At the start of the invasion Russia had a clear advantage in the air, with the combat aircraft it had moved near the border outnumbering Ukraine’s air force by more than three to one. Most military analysts assumed the invading force would quickly gain superiority in the air, but it has not. Ukraine’s air defences are still proving effective, limiting Russia’s ability to manoeuvre.

Moscow may have also assumed its special forces would play an important role, helping deliver a quick, decisive blow.

A senior Western intelligence official told the BBC that Russia thought it could deploy lighter, spearhead units like the Spetsnatz and VDV paratroopers, “to eliminate a small number of defenders and that would be it”. But in the first few days their helicopter assault on Hostomel Airport, just outside Kyiv, was repelled, denying Russia an airbridge to bring in troops, equipment and supplies.

Instead, Russia has had to transport its supplies mostly by road. This has created traffic jams and choke points which are easy targets for Ukrainian forces to ambush. Some heavy armour has gone off road, only to get stuck in mud, reinforcing an image of an army that has become “bogged down”.

Meanwhile, Russia’s long armoured column from the north that was captured by satellites has still failed to encircle Kyiv. The most significant advances have come from the south, where it has been able to use rail lines to resupply its forces. The UK Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, told the BBC that President Putin’s forces “have lost the momentum”.

“They’re stuck and they are slowly but surely taking significant casualties.”

Losses and low morale

Russia had amassed a force of around 190,000 troops for this invasion and most of those have already been committed to the battle. But they have already lost about 10% of that force. There are no reliable figures for the scale of either Russian or Ukrainian losses. Ukraine claims to have killed 14,000 Russian troops, though the US estimates it is probably half that number.

Western officials say there is also evidence of dwindling morale among Russian fighters, with one saying it was “very, very, low”. Another said the troops were “cold, tired and hungry” as they had already been waiting in the snow for weeks in Belarus and Russia before they were given the order to invade.

Russia has already been forced to look for more troops to make up for its losses, including moving in reserve units from as far afield as the east of the country and Armenia. Western officials believe it is also “highly likely” that foreign troops from Syria will soon join the fight, along with mercenaries from its secretive Wagner group. A senior Nato military official said this was a sign it was “scratching the bottom of the barrel”.

Supplies and logistics

Russia has struggled with the basics. There is an old military saying that amateurs talk tactics while professionals study logistics. There is evidence that Russia has not given it enough consideration. Armoured columns have run out of fuel, food and ammunition. Vehicles have broken down and been left abandoned, then towed away by Ukrainian tractors.

Western officials also believe Russia may be running low on some munitions. It has already fired between 850 and 900 long-range precision munitions, including cruise missiles, which are harder to replace than unguided weapons. US officials have warned Russia has approached China to help address some of its shortages.

In contrast, there has been a steady flow of Western-supplied weapons going into Ukraine, which has been a boost for its morale. The US has just announced it will be providing an additional $800m in defence support. As well as more anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, it is expected to include Switchblade, which is a small, US-developed, “kamikaze” drone that can be carried in a backpack before being launched to deliver a small explosive at targets on the ground.

Western officials still warn that President Putin could “double down with greater brutality”. They say he still has enough firepower to bombard Ukrainian cities for a “considerable period of time”.

Despite the setbacks, one intelligence official said President Putin was, “unlikely to be deterred and may instead escalate. He likely remains confident that Russia can militarily defeat Ukraine”. And while the Ukrainian forces have shown fierce resistance, that same official warned that without significant resupplies they too could “eventually be spent in terms of ammunition and numbers”. The odds may be better than when the war first started, but they still seem stacked against Ukraine.

Source : BBC

Infographic: All the World’s Military Personnel

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Source : Visual Capitalist

The Javelin Is Wrecking Putin’s Army. Here’s How the Anti-Tank Weapon Works.

Ross Pomeroy wrote . . . . . . . . .

Ukraine is a highly devout country – about 87% of its 41 million citizens practice Christianity. So it’s notable that, to many Ukrainians, Mary Magdalene now has a new moniker: St. Javelin.

The viral meme (shown above) recasting the “Apostle of the apostles” is in reverence to a device that knows no religion: the FGM-148 Javelin portable fire-and-forget anti-tank missile. Since the start of Putin’s dastardly invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian freedom fighters have extensively utilized the American-made weapon system – co-produced by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon – to rain destruction down upon the Russian military’s armored vehicles. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry estimates that 102 tanks and 536 armored vehicles had been destroyed as of February 26th. The Javelin likely factored heavily into that rousing combat success.

“This weapon allows a single soldier to target and destroy even the most heavily armored main battle tank with an almost guaranteed kill rate, at great range and with minimal risk,” Army Capt. Vincent Delany wrote of the Javelin for West Point’s Modern War Institute.

So how does this ‘holy’ piece of military machinery work? Laypersons might be envisioning a bazooka-like operation, but anti-tank weapons have evolved considerably since that quintessential rocket launcher was deployed in World War II. With the Javelin, a soldier using the portable, reusable Command Launch Unit (CLU) looks through an infrared sight to locate a target up to an incredible 2.5 miles away. When the user spots a target, he operates a cursor to set a square around it, almost like cropping an image. This is then sent to the onboard guidance computer on the missile itself, which has a sophisticated algorithmic tracking system coupled with an infrared imaging device. When the missile locks on to the target, the operator can launch the self-guided weapon and quickly relocate or reload to fire another missile at a different target.

The Javelin originally debuted in 1996, bearing a couple remarkable innovations. For one, it offers a “soft launch.” David Qi Zhang of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute explained what that means in his Master of Engineering thesis on the Javelin.

“The first motor… produces enough thrust to launch the missile out of the tube and a safe distance away, but is completely burned before the nozzle left the tube, leaving no exhaust to hit the operator. The flight motor then ignites to propel the [missile] along its attack path,” he wrote.

A second innovation of the Javelin is that it strikes from above. The missile rises high into the air, up to 490 feet, then blasts down on its target from a steep angle, striking the top of an armored vehicle or tank, where the armor is typically weakest.

Russian tanks are not helpless against the Javelin. Most are equipped with explosive reactive armor. When struck by a penetrating weapon like a missile, the armor detonates, blasting a metal plate outwards to damage the missile’s penetrator and prevent it from piercing the tank’s main armor. The Javelin overcomes this by having tandem warheads, one to deal with the reactive armor plate, and the second to impact the tank’s armor itself. Modern Russian tanks are also equipped with a radar system called Arena, which detects incoming missiles and automatically fires a wide burst of projectiles to destroy or redirect them. But here, again, the Javelin reigns supreme, Delany says.

“The Javelin can defeat Arena while in top-attack mode, due to the missile descending from too steep an angle for the system to engage properly,” he wrote.

Ukraine had been shipped roughly 77 launchers and 740 missiles before Putin invaded. Many, many more of each are now on the way courtesy of the U.S. and European allies. May the Ukrainians put them to good use. Slava Ukraini!

Source : Real Clear Science

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Chart: The World’s Most Powerful Militaries

Source : Statista

Why China Could Win the New Global Arms Race

David Brown wrote . . . . . . . . .

China is building up its armed forces at a rapid pace.

Its advances in missile technology, nuclear weapons and artificial intelligence have triggered serious concern among many Western observers, who believe a profound shift in the global balance of military power is under way.

President Xi Jinping has ordered China’s armed forces to modernise by 2035. They should, he says, become a “world-class” military power, capable of “fighting and winning wars” by 2049.

It is a huge undertaking, but the country is on target.

Spending big

China has been criticised by some international experts for a “lack of transparency” over how much it spends on defence, and an “inconsistent reporting of figures”.

Beijing does publish official spending data, but Western estimates of China’s financial support for its armed forces are often significantly higher.

It is widely believed that China currently spends more on its armed forces than any country except the US.

The growth of China’s military budget has outpaced its overall economic growth for at least a decade, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Boosting the nuclear stockpile

In November, the US Department of Defense predicted that China was set to quadruple its nuclear stockpile by the end of the current decade. China, it said, “likely intends to have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030”.

Chinese state media called the claim “wild and biased speculation”, adding that nuclear forces were kept at a “minimum level”.

However, experts at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, who publish annual assessments of global stockpiles, say China has been increasing the number of its warheads over recent years.

China is still a long way short of the US stockpile of 5,550 warheads, but its nuclear build-up is being seen as one of the biggest threats to Western military supremacy.

“China’s nuclear weapons are the most important issue,” according to Veerle Nouwens, of the Royal United Services institute in London.

“There is a huge lack of trust on both sides and dialogue is nowhere near the level needed. There are big risks and the off-ramps are difficult to see.”

Hypersonic future

Hypersonic missiles travel at more than five times the speed of sound.

They are not as fast as intercontinental ballistic missiles, but they are so difficult to detect in flight that they may render some air defences useless.

“The Chinese understand that they are a long way behind, so they are trying to make big breakthroughs to leap-frog other powers,” according to Dr Zeno Leoni, of King’s College London.

“Developing hypersonic missiles is one of the ways they’re trying to do this.”

China has denied testing hypersonic missiles, but Western experts believe that two rocket launches last summer indicate that its military is well on the way to acquiring them.

It’s unclear exactly what systems China may be developing. There are two main types:

  • Hypersonic glide missiles stay within the Earth’s atmosphere
  • Fractional orbital bombardment systems (FOBS) fly in low orbit before accelerating towards a target

It is possible that China may have succeeded in combining the two systems, firing a hypersonic missile from an FOBS manoeuvrable spacecraft.

Dr Leoni says that while hypersonic missiles may not – on their own – be a game-changer, they will make some targets highly vulnerable to attack.

“Hypersonic missiles make aircraft carriers in particular much more difficult to defend,” he says.

However, he also suggests that that the threat from Chinese hypersonic missiles may have been overstated by some Western officials, who are keen to make as strong a case as possible for the financing of military space technology.

“The threat is real. Yet, it is possible that this is being exaggerated.”

Artificial intelligence and cyber-attacks

China is now fully committed to developing “intelligentised” warfare, or future military methods based on disruptive technologies – especially artificial intelligence, according to the US Department of Defense.

China’s Academy of Military Science has been given a mandate to make sure that this happens, through “civil-military fusion”, in other words joining up Chinese private sector technology companies with the country’s defence industries.

Reports suggest that China may already be using artificial intelligence in military robotics and missile guidance systems, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned naval vessels.

China has already conducted large-scale cyber-operations abroad, according to a recent expert assessment.

In July the UK, US and EU accused China of carrying out a major cyber-attack targeting Microsoft Exchange servers.

It is believed that the attack affected at least 30,000 organisations globally and aimed to enable large-scale espionage, including the acquisition of personal information and intellectual property.

The world’s largest, but not most powerful, navy

China has overtaken the US to become the largest navy in the world – but experts point out that a simple comparison of ship numbers leaves out numerous factors which determine a navy’s capabilities.

But, they say, an examination of the trends can be useful.

For now, the US maintains a strong lead in many naval capabilities, with 11 aircraft carriers to China’s two, and more nuclear-powered submarines, cruisers and destroyers – or larger warships.

But China is expected to expand its navy much further.

Former People’s Liberation Army Senior Colonel Zhou Bo, of Tsinghua University in Beijing, says he believes it is “critically important” for China to strengthen its navy to counter the sea-based threats which it faces.

In particular, he says: “The most outstanding problem we face is what we perceive to be American provocation in China’s waters.”

The US Navy predicts that between 2020 and 2040, the total number of Chinese navy ships will increase by nearly 40%.

Uncertain future

Is China moving away from non-confrontation towards a more threatening stance?

For now, the Chinese approach is still “win without fighting”, says Dr Leoni, although he adds that it could change this strategy some time in the future.

“Becoming a fully modernised naval power could be one tipping point.”

But Senior Colonel Zhou insists that Western fears are unfounded.

“China has no intention of policing the world, unlike the United States,” he says. “Even if China becomes much stronger one day, it will maintain its basic policies.”

China has not fought a war since 1979, when it went into battle with Vietnam, so much of its military capabilities are completely untested.

Many in both the West and in China will hope it stays that way.

Source : BBC