Fighters of Ukraine’s 5th Separate Assault Brigade employed the domestic ground unmanned combat platform Ironclad in combat, Ukraine’s Land Forces said on Tuesday.
Video footage shows the robot targeting a Russian position with a heavy machine gun. The Ironclad uses a domestic “Shablya M2” combat module, which can be fitted with 7.62 mm or 12.7 mm machine guns, according to the statement.
While the exact specifications of the modernized platform are unknown, earlier announced characteristics indicate a net weight of 1,800 kilograms and maximum payload capacity of up to 350 kilograms.
Top speed on roads is approximately 20 kilometers per hour, and 15 kilometers per hour off-road. Operating range is up to 130 kilometers on a single charge, with remote control range from 5 kilometers, extendable to 10 kilometers with a repeater, according to Militarynyi.
Ironclad’s armored hull withstands 7.62 mm ammunition.
The shots seen in the video are made by the robotic Shablya turrets, developed by a Ukrainian engineering team. Ukraine has now contracted them for the first time, Ukraine’s Digital Transformation Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said on 10 January.
“Shablya is innovation and an example of modern warfare weapons,” Fedorov said.
Shablya is an example of a Ukrainian homegrown military tech startup that received state investments through the Brave 1 defense cluster as part of Ukraine’s strategy to develop unique technological solutions for its defense forces.
The combat module can be installed on the ground, vehicles, or special transport, providing fire support from trenches, bunkers, and pickups, according to the developers. It accommodates 7.62 mm PKT, M240, M2 machine guns, or other weapons.
The operator inserts the armament into the turret and coordinates fire at distances up to 1,200 meters using a remote control panel, camera, and monitor. Shablya’s armor withstands bullets. It can team up with the robotic Ris platform to deliver firepower on the hottest fronts, the developers said.
Ukraine’s tech-driven war and focus on drones
Faced with Russia’s prevailing manpower and military resources, Ukraine has opted for a tech-driven approach as it seeks to expel Russian invaders from its territory.
Drones have a special place in this approach. In the air, Ukraine’s state project, Army of Drones, provides hundreds of drones daily to the army, including small reconnaissance FPV drones, kamikaze drones, and heavy drone bombers.
In the sea, an agile fleet of naval drones has pushed away Russia’s Black Sea Fleet out of occupied Crimea and has sunk at least two flagships.
Regarding ground combat drones, Ukraine has three key priority areas, as Deputy Defense Minister Volodymyr Havrylov outlined in July 2023.
- logistics drones that can operate near the frontlines to evacuate wounded soldiers or deliver ammunition on contested ground within enemy firing range.
- combat drones equipped with light weaponry like automatic grenade launchers, machine guns, or anti-tank munitions operated remotely by a human. These low-profile robots can ambush Russian forces from bushes or other concealment.
- stationary robotic systems with machine guns or optical surveillance equipment that can be positioned at key points and remotely controlled. While limited in mobility, these can assist in reconnaissance or be integrated into defensive fortifications, Havrylov explained.
Ground robots like the Ukrainian-made Ironclad can save lives by destroying enemies while keeping personnel safely distant, Havrylov said. Ukraine’s military is providing feedback to developers on how to optimize the unmanned platforms for the battlefield.