Of course the Americans have the highest-tech military gizmos around, their “just over the horizon, honest” toys looking like what you’d get if Tom Clancy ever scripted an episode of Thunderbirds (if anyone else remembers it…). There’s the Northrop-Grumman X-47B dogfighting drone, the grenade-firing XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement Systems (which doesn’t sound macho enough, so it’s informally “The Punisher”), the massive, almost-bomb-proof Ground Combat Vehicle (think of a metal fortress on tracks). But last week was Russia’s Defense Ministry Innovations Day, so let’s not forget all their cool and sometimes bizarre new ideas… and what they may tell us about Russia’s military.
There’s the almost ridiculously over-armed BMPT (Boyevaya Mashina Podderzhki Tankov, Tank Support Fighting Vehicle), technically known as the Ramka (“Frame”) but more aptly nicknamed “The Terminator.” Intended for urban warfare and other situations where a gratuitous amount of firepower is to be unleashed against enemies who aren’t a real military who know how to use armor, artillery or ant-tank missiles, it is a T-72 tank chassis loaded with two 30mm automatic cannons, four missile launchers for the 130mm 9M120 Ataka-T laser-guided weapon, two automatic grenade launchers and a machine gun. Never mind Thunderbirds, all this needs is a maniac in leather trousers and a gimp mask clinging to the roof to star in a Mad Max movie.
While their colleagues may have been getting drunk and bribing their instructors for good grades, students from the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI) have designed a cheap unmanned attack helicopter, the Raven-333, which can be loaded up with thermal imaging optics and other sensors to detect targets within a 10km radius and then a remote-controlled Kalashnikov assault rifle and grenade launcher to bring them misery, all in a package that looks like it was made from Meccano. Let no one tell you Russian engineering is dead!
What about the poor infantryman, though? Aha, for him there is the Exoatlet P-1 passive exoskeleton, a powered frame that fits around him, boosting his muscles do that he can carry a load of up to 220 pounds. It’s especially designed for soldiers meant to carry heavy assault shields, as in the picture, but come on, aren’t we really in Marvel superhero and Robocop territory?
Wouldn’t this be better suited to throwing enemy soldiers over trees and punching through walls? Show some imagination, people! At least I hope it makes that satisfying bzzt-chuk noise when it moves.
But let’s not forget the Defense Ministry’s gentle and caring side? The green is not just for camouflage with their answer to the Prius, the hybrid BTR Krymsk armored personnel carrier, 22 tons of silent-running, heavy-machinegun-toting love for the Planet Earth…
If in doubt, though, why not stick to the inflatable S-300 surface-to-air missile system, the tool of deception that can double as a bouncy castle. I suspect a certain Mr Assad might well be looking for his bicycle pump, even as I type this.