The Russian military is bracing for the impact that shipments of western tanks will have on the battlefield in Ukraine, and it’s hoping that it can turn some of its unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) into an effective countermeasure when those Western tanks eventually arrive.
On Thursday, Russian state media reported four Russian-built Marker UGVs have arrived in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
Dmitry Rogozin, a Russian military advisor who previously lead Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, is involved in overseeing the process to outfit the unmanned vehicles to take on enemy tanks.
“The first four Marker robots have arrived in the region strictly on schedule,” Rogozin told Russia’s TASS news agency. “We begin downloading target images and testing algorithms of warfare within a unit of combat robots and installing powerful anti-tank armament.”
The Marker UGV is developed by the Russian technology company Android Technics. The vehicle has been seen in tracked and six-wheel variants.
Russia announced its plans to outfit its Marker UGVs for anti-tank roles just days after the U.S. and several other Western nations announced plans to send tanks to Ukraine.
President Joe Biden announced the U.S. will supply Ukraine with 31 M1 Abrams main battle tanks. Germany, Poland and Canada have pledged 32 Leopard 2 main battle tanks and the United Kingdom has pledged 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks.
Ukraine’s Ambassador to France Vadym Omelchenko has said other western nations have committed to additional donations that would bring the total number of donated main battle tanks to Ukraine to 321. Omelchenko has not specified which countries would donate their tanks and which tanks they would send.
Various western nations have pledged to give Ukraine dozens of additional up-armored tactical vehicles. Earlier this week, the U.S. began shipping 60 M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) to Ukraine. The U.S. has also pledged to provide Ukraine with 90 Stryker armored personnel carriers, 53 mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAPs) and 350 up-armored Humvees.
On his Telegram channel, Rogozin said Russian forces already conducted some testing with the Marker UGV and said it provides perimeter security at Russia’s Vostochny cosmodrome. Rogozin said the UGVs now “will have to undergo a baptism of fire in the Donbas.”
Russian forces have repeatedly used active conflict zones as arenas to test their new military equipment. In 2018, Russian forces deployed another UGV prototype, known as the Uran-9, to combat zones in Syria. Russian defense officials revealed those tests saw widespread failures for the Uran-9, with vehicles struggling to run beyond 500 meters and, in at least two cases, losing control for up to 1.5 hours.