Ukrainian-made, remote-controlled GNOM to fight Russian troops near Zaporiyia
The invasion of Ukraine is being a showcase of all kinds of weaponry. From Cold War antiquities such as the T-62 tank, which entered service half a century ago and Russia is now desperately rescuing, to the Ukrainians’ converted missile-launching pickup trucks. Suicide, attack and surveillance drones are also getting quite a lot of play, but next week an invention is scheduled to be deployed that may steal their leading role in the contest: GNOM, a small remote-controlled robot armed with a machine gun.
Temerland, a Ukrainian company specializing in robotics, says it will deploy GNOM robotic vehicles equipped with 7.62 mm machine guns near the town of Zaporiyia in southeastern Ukraine. It is one of the key points to settle the conflict since, if it were to fall into the hands of Putin’s army, Russia would have almost completed the corridor from the Donbas to Transnistria.
The GNOM, available in two configurations (four- or six-wheeled) and was originally designed to fulfill other military functions, which did not include weapons of any kind.
This multifunctional robotic platform was created to solve surveillance and reconnaissance tasks, as well as delivery of ammunition, food and evacuation of the wounded. In addition, it can function as a repeater to increase communications range or serve as a satellite for larger robotic platforms.
With dimensions of 57х38х60 cm and a weight of 50 kilograms, GNOM is constructed of metal. It withstands temperatures between -25 and 60 degrees Celsius and can be operated by remote control at a distance of up to 5 kilometers.
Inside it hides an Odyssey on-board computer, which manages the motion control of the robotic platform. It also has a depth camera with Intel RealSense laser dot emitter, which allows it to identify objects and obstacles, and whose signal is transmitted to the device being used by the operator.
The autonomous control of the vehicle offers the possibility of smart track, a system that allows GNOM to follow the movement of another vehicle, or by GPS, previously introducing the coordinates to trace a route from point to point. The other possibility is remote control from a tablet or smartphone.
“The function of a UGV [unmanned ground vehicle] is ultimately to replace a human combatant,” Samuel Bendett, an analyst at the Center for Naval Analysis and adjunct fellow at the Center for New American Security, told Task & Purpose. “But humans can communicate. They can adapt. They can form units and attack.”
So the actual utility of this machine gun-armed GNOM is something that will have to be closely examined, because it’s not going to be easy to integrate an autonomous or remote-controlled vehicle into combat formations, which often have to improvise on the fly. Its small dimensions are an ally when it comes to going unnoticed and performing surveillance or espionage work, but its true utility as an attack platform is doubtful.
Russia has been one of the pioneers in the use of robots in combat. It has been experimenting with it since the 1930s and has had several candidates to become the first robotic battle tanks to be used in conflict. However, it was not until 2018 that the country presided over by Vladimir Putin first confirmed their use.
The Uran-9 robotic tanks were deployed in Syria to perform reconnaissance and armored vehicle destruction missions. It was a big propaganda stunt by the Russian government and manufacturer Kalashnikov, but soon after, an expert from the Kuznetsov Naval Academy in St. Petersburg claimed that “modern Russian unmanned ground combat vehicles (UGVs) are not capable of performing the tasks assigned in classical types of combat operations.”
Another model, Uran-6, has participated in the invasion of Ukraine outside Mariupol, although its performance and effectiveness is unknown at the moment. It is a remotely piloted tracked robot used for demining operations. Its involvement took place away from the front lines, in a relatively controlled environment.
It’s all part of a long-term plan that could change warfare forever. It was already warned about just over a year ago by Sergey Shoigu, the Russian Defense Minister, when he confirmed that the former Soviet country was mass-producing combat robots based on artificial intelligence. He referred to them as “the weapons of tomorrow.”