Unmanned But Not Unarmed


The depth and breadth of new military vehicles undergoing testing or joining the Russian Army is truly staggering, given their supposed stance of neutrality following the demise of the Soviet Union. The military analysts at Jane’s report that a completely new vehicle was unveiled at the Russian-sponsored Army 2016 Expo, sounding alarms across the West and chills in NATO circles.

“Designated as an unmanned combat ground vehicle (UCGV), the Vikhr (Whirlwind) is based on the BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV).

“The fully modular combat UCGV is based on the BMP-3, as this IFV features a reliable and easy-to-maintain chassis. However, it can be integrated with other types of armoured combat vehicles with a combat weight of 7-15 tonnes, for instance, modified BMP-1 and BMP-2 IFVs, Ural heavy trucks, or BTR-80 armoured personnel carriers [APCs],” an industry source told IHS Jane’s . He added that Vikhr is intended for fire support and combat reconnaissance on the battlefield.

The vehicle is equipped with an advanced remote-control sensor package device that includes an electo-optic suite, an automatic target tracking device, a laser rangefinder, a thermal imager, and a ballistic computer.

Vikhr is armed with a stabilized 30 mm Shipunov 2A72 automatic cannon, a coaxial 7.62 mm Kalashnikov PKT/PKTM machine gun, and six ready-to-launch 9M133M Kornet-M (AT-14 Spriggan) anti-tank guided missiles.

“The 2A72 main gun of the Vikhr robotic system can be replaced by a single or twin-barrel 23 mm 2A14 anti-aircraft cannon, 12.7 mm NSVT or Kord heavy machine guns, or a 30 mm GSh-6-30K six-barrel naval automatic cannon. The vehicle can use surface-to-air missiles such as the Igla [SA-18 Grouse] or 9K333 Verba man-portable air defense systems, as well as Shmel-M reactive flamethrowers. We can also integrate foreign artillery systems with the Vikhr vehicle,” the source said.

According to official data, Vikhr has a combat weight of 14.7 tons, a payload capacity of 4 tons, an operating range of 600 km, a maximum road speed of 60 km/h, a swimming speed of 10 km/h, and can be remote controlled to a distance of 10 km. The vehicle’s combat module weighs 1,450 kg.”

It’s not clear how the Vikhr will be integrated within the Russian Army, operating in tandem with manned systems or alone and independently.

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