Russia has launched a new project financed by the Foundation of Prospective Research called “The soldier of the future”.
In fact, two concepts of the future soldier now dominate in the world. One is that of an operator of highly robotized equipment, who controls it from a safe place, sometimes far from the battlefield. The second is to turn a common soldier into a “superman” by equipping him with an exo-skeleton, something like a spacesuit or suit of armor to make him much stronger and less vulnerable.
However, if operating robotic military equipment from a safe distance is already a reality, exo-skeletal suits are not yet being used in the army and, most likely, will not come into practice in the near future either. At least, this is the view of Editor-in-Chief of Russian magazine “Arsenal Otechestva” (“Fatherland’s arsenal”) Victor Murakhovsky.
“What is hampering the creation of exo-skeletons, is, first of all, the issue of what energy they will use”, Mr. Murakhovsky says. “At present, the choice is limited, either petrol or diesel-oil, or electric power. But the problem is that, although we probably could equip an exo-skeleton with electric power accumulators, from the point of view of power, fuel-oil is much more effective. Most probably, until mankind discovers or invents a new kind of energy production, apart from electricity and fuel-oil, exo-skeletons for soldiers will remain a dream rather than reality. However, engineers are still attempting to work on them”.
“In fact, I seriously doubt that the time will come when exo-skeletons will be effectively used in battle,” Victor Murachovsky concludes, “Maybe, they will be used for parades, or, at least, during preparations for a battle.”
Mr. Murakovsky is also rather skeptical towards the idea that future wars will consist of battles between unmanned planes and tanks, operated by people sitting miles and miles away from the battlefield.
“The story of a US drone intercepted by Iranians is an illustration of the much-lauded “effectiveness” of unmanned planes”, he says. “I believe that anyone who tried to lead a battle with just drones instead of manned aircraft would very much risk losing”.
“A modern artillery battery can effectively hit targets no further than about 50 kms around it,” Victor Murakhovsky continues. “For a modern helicopter, the relevant figure is several dozen kms, and for a drone, several hundred kms. Taking this into account, I doubt that at present, anyone who is sitting, say, in Moscow, could effectively operate a drone, say, somewhere in the Far East. True, the US now uses long-range drones in Pakistan, Somalia or Yemen. But these are countries that can hardly be qualified as the world’s most developed ones.”
However, some experts do not share Mr. Murakovasky’s attitude towards the possibility of wars using unmanned planes and tanks. Thus, the RIA Novosti news agency’s military observer Konastantin Bogdanov says:
“There is a proverb which goes: “Being well informed means being well armed”, and, in contemporary wars, this is probably more true than ever before. In modern wars, it is probably computer managers rather than soldiers on the battlefield on whom the outcome of a conflict depends. Today, the main aim of a warring side is not as much to destroy as many enemy planes and tanks as possible, as trying to get access to the enemy’s information and computer systems. Today, it wouldn’t be a big exaggeration to say that battles managed by people sitting in front of a computer many miles away from the battlefield have already become a reality. In such a situation, I wouldn’t be surprised if warriors in exo-skeletons became a reality very soon.”
The organization that was ordered to work on “The Soldier of the Future” project is the Kurchatov National Scientific Center, chosen because, some time ago, new generation materials were created there, which, as experts believe, may well be used to create exo-skeletons.
The Russian version of “future soldier” gear could be put into service with the armed forces in the near future, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said.
“There are some issues with small arms that should be addressed in the near future, and after that the gear will be adopted by the army,” Rogozin said.
Many other nations have similar future soldier equipment programs in progress, including the U.S. Land Warrior, Germany’s IdZ, Britain’s FIST, Spain’s COMFUT, Sweden’s IMESS and France’s FELIN.