The history of warfare is about to change forever. Russia is turning its T-90 tanks into the equivalent of a land drone, and wants future wars to be indirectly waged on the Internet.
Russian officials announced recently that the T-90, a tank that has been used by Russian armies for nearly 20 years, would be redesigned so that it would not require a physical driver.
In other words, Russia is turning their tanks into military robots. They will be indirectly controlled, like a drone, by an operator outside of harm’s way.
Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s deputy prime minister, said that the Russian army will need to become familiar with video games in order to manage the remodeled tanks. He suggested the online simulator World of Tanks as a possible recruiter.
“Now we don’t need tank drivers, but World of Tanks gamers,” tweeted Rogozin.
Making war into a video game
World of Tanks is a free online video game, which supposedly has 75 million players. Players control a single armed vehicle of his or her choosing, which is then placed into battle on a random map. Players can then participate in random battles, team battles, tank-company battles and more.
This isn’t the first time Rogozin has publicly voiced his preference for drone technologies. Back in early September, he said we would soon “witness the situation in which an army manned with bespectacled nerds would completely destroy the forces of handsome athletes who fight on a lower technological level.”
The decision to convert T-90 tanks into land drones is fueled by Kremlin’s engagement in Syria in favor of President Bashar al-Assad.
The task to convert T-90 tanks into land drones has been placed in the hands of UralVagonZavod, the company that designed the previous T-90 tanks. The company is expected to replace T-90s with a more modern T-14 Armata tank. Nevertheless, the export variants of the vehicles have yet to be finalized.
Senior executive Vyacheslav Khalitov of UralVagonZavod reports that efforts to convert the T-90 into a robot are already underway.
“Why should we build a robot that will be less efficient on the battle field with weaker protection?” Khalitov told sources.
“We have a ready-made product — the T-90 tank. It’s not a problem to turn it into a robot. And it can be controlled from a distance,” he added.
The remote controls that will manage the tanks are designed to work from three miles away. This will enable the operators to be close enough to the battlefield, but far enough to stay out of danger.
“We are expecting serial procurement of armoured vehicles mounted on the Armata universal platform to begin in 2017-2018,” said Khalitov.
“We are building new workshops, training people and creating Armata production facilities at other enterprises with the purpose of building a large batch of these vehicles.”
The problem with land drones
As is the case with airborne drones, land drones aren’t without their critics. While unmanned vehicles may prevent the death of troops on the battlefield, they’ve also led to an onslaught of civilian causalities.
Furthermore, boiling war down to a video game dilutes the reality of combat and cuts emotions from their moral roots. The physical distance between the operator and the drone makes the act of killing much easier. Rather than see a real flesh and blood human being, the drone operator sees a “target.”
The tank was unmasked at the Red Square on May 9 to mark the 70th anniversary of Nazi Germany surrendering to the Soviet Union, which ended the Second World War in Europe.