Russian Tank Drone Performed Poorly in Syria
The results are in on Russia’s Uran-9 combat drone and its baptism of fire, and it isn’t good. Uran-9, bristling with guns and missiles, may look impressive but it has trouble with the fundamentals not only of armored warfare but warfare by remote control. The remote-controlled combat vehicle lost contact with ground control stations suffered from an unreliable gun and suspension system, and could not target enemies while on the move.
The problems were brought to light at a Russian security conference, “Actual Problems of Protection and Security” at the N.G. Kuznetsov Naval Academy in St. Petersberg. A.P. Anisimov, Senior Research Officer, the 3rd Central Research Institute of the Russian Defence Ministry, reported on Russia’s recent deployment of the Uran-9 unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) to Syria, where it had its combat debut. The results were summarized online at Defence Blog.
Introduced in 2016, Uran-9 is designed as an unmanned fire support vehicle for the Russian Ground Forces. The UGV is 16.7 feet long and weighs approximately 10 tons. Uran 9 packs some serious firepower, with one 30mm 2A72 automatic cannon and four 9M120-1 Ataka anti-tank guided missiles. The result is a vehicle that is theoretically deadly to troops on foot, light armored vehicles, and even main battle tanks.
The reality is that Uran-9 is a hot mess. One of the most serious problems, of which there are many, is the vehicle is on a short tether, on average capable of straying only 1,000 to 1,600 feet from its manned control station. Uran-9 lost contact with the control station 19 times–17 times for a minute or less, and at least in one case up to 1.5 hours. The problem was exacerbated in urban fighting centers with buildings blocking the radio signal.
Uran-9 is a tracked vehicle, with tracks instead of road wheels. The rollers and suspension that keep the vehicle running smoothly were rated of low reliability and required field repairs. This is surprising considering that Russia has a large armored vehicle force using tracks, including the new T-14 Armata tank, T-90MS tank, and BMP series combat vehicles. However the contractor, JSC 766 UPTK, largely sticks to unmanned systems–including an unmanned version of the new “Tigr-M” armored vehicle.
The remote fire control system is also a problem, with the 2A72 experiencing a lag before firing six times and an outright failure once. Another problem with the Uran is that the armament, optics, and sensors aren’t stabilized for firing on the move, requiring the vehicle to stop first.
Uran-9’s combat experience in Syria revealed serious problems with the system. That having been said, the UGV was not a vital part of the fighting and the whole point of sending the systems to a combat zone was to expose flaws that might not show up in peacetime. Uran-9 might be a failure, but the concept itself is promising. If Russia’s defense industry can fix the problems Moscow could have a dependable, lethal robot on its hands and a real threat to NATO forces.