Putin's New Weapon? Giant Golden Killer Robot Unveiled in Russia

The Army 2018 fair being held in Russia is a chance for around 1,200 weapons companies to showcase their latest products: the weapons they hope will change the face of warfare and redefine future battlefields.

As such, Russian defense company Kalashnikov Concern has unveiled what it calls a "controlled bipedal walker," a 13-foot golden machine that would look more at home in a sci-fi movie than outside a conference center near Moscow. According to Daily Mail, the machine is called Igorek.

In a video posted to its website, the company proudly displays the mammoth system, which it says is bulletproof and weighs 5 tons. Igorek's two huge claws can be used to hold objects—including deadly weapons—or perform battlefield tasks like construction. A large cabin sits atop its legs, inside which troops can sit and operate the machine.

The system, which Kalashnikov Concern says is designed for "engineering and combat solutions," looks strikingly similar to the ED-209 robot made famous by the movie RoboCop. Vladimir Dmitriev, the CEO of the company, told the Mail, "This robot is probably one of the hottest new models of the 'Army 2018.' Currently it is only a demonstration of the path we are planning on following."

So it would seem the golden robot is not yet ready for the battlefield. But, Dmitriev added, "We understand that there are robotic machines driving on caterpillar and wheel drive, we also understand that there will be demand for anthropomorphic automatic movable systems." He said that the company will not reveal Igorek's full capabilities before the development process is complete.

Russia is enthusiastically pursuing automated battlefield technology, far beyond the unmanned drones that have become ubiquitous weapons among the world's leading military powers. Kalashnikov Concerns has produced a 7-ton drone tank known as the BAS-01G Soratnik. Designed for reconnaissance and fire support missions, the vehicle can travel at speeds of up to 25 mph. The company is reportedly now planning a 20-ton version of the tank.

The Uran-9 drone tank, designed by the JSC 766 UPTK company, has already been deployed to the front lines. The weapon was sent to Syria, where Russian forces are fighting to support President Bashar al-Assad in his seven-year war against rebels and Islamist militants. Though it is unclear if the Uran-9 was used in any combat operations, it did undergo tests.

However, military observers are skeptical over its performance. The Defence Blog website reported that the tank struggled to maneuver on broken terrain and its communication systems broke down several times, leaving it out of contact with controllers. Its weapon systems were also unreliable, and it proved unable to consistently hit targets while on the move.

The U.S. is also working on its own autonomous or remote-control battlefield drones. According to National Interest, the Pentagon is developing technology kits that can be put into a wide range of unmanned combat vehicles. The hope is that the weapons will eventually be able to operate with minimal human interaction, which would make communication problems—like those apparently experienced by the Uran-9 in Syria—far less pressing.

A variety of U.S. defense companies are developing their own robots that could one day be used to support troops on the battlefield. Some of the best-known are the Boston Dynamics dog- and human-like robots. While company videos have shown they can open doors and stand up to a decent human beating, their inability to stack boxes or walk on banana skins has made them an online favorite.