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The last thing a naval mine expects is to be shot by an underwater robot holding a pistol.
Naval mines are expectant machines, terrible potential floating below the surface. With preset triggers, they are a sensor and a bomb, waiting for the rough impression of a passing ship to suddenly explode.
A new underwater uncrewed robot, designed by Russian firm Region, wants to provide a robotic answer to these undersea emplacements. It is primarily a scouting platform, made first to find other underwater robots and mines. With just 15 minutes of work, a human crew can swap out the sensor platform and replace it with a variety of tools.
“The UUV has five uses, according to [designer] Anna Molarskaya,” says Samuel Bendett, an adviser to the think tank CNA’s Russia program who specializes in Russian unmanned military systems. These include the abilities to “search for underwater drones, lay a charge on discovered mines as a sapper, be a manipulator (with an appendage for additional work attached to the nose), works as an autonomous moving mine, and be an underwater robot armed with a special pistol (also attached to the nose).”
In that sense, Region’s robot is a versatile platform, building off of existing capabilities, like underwater pistols developed for Russian Special Forces, and modern needs, like hunting other underwater robots.
While the robot has yet to be picked up for a formal trial by the Ministry of Defense, it has received attention from the Russian military and is built in accordance with doctrine recommending modularity for future missions.
“It may also work in both autonomous and remotely piloted modes – the adversary drone/mine identification may be carried in an autonomous mode, but the actual destruction of mines or other UUVs/ or work with a manipulator appendage may be carried in a remotely piloted mode,” says Bendett, a CNAS Adjunct Senior Fellow who researches applications of Russian military unmanned system and AI. “At this point, the MOD would like its Navy to be operating a full range of maritime autonomous systems – with every vessel eventually becoming a “carrier” of multiple unmanned platforms.”
What robots like this add to a fleet is a proactive, cheap-to-upgrade answer to the robots and weapons of other nations, all looking for any possible edge in the warming oceans of the world.
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