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Russia’s DARPA, the Advanced Research Foundation aims breakthrough high-risk research and development

Emerging technologies such as space technology; 5G, Cloud computing, IoT, “big data” analytics, artificial intelligence, robotics, photonics, materials, nanotechnology; biotechnology; and quantum computing, have significant potential to create, significant social, economic, and military benefits. Therefore countries led by US, China and Russia are spending billions of dollars on them to gain leadership and secure economic and military advantage. This is leading to a vigorous arms race in emerging technologies.


There is also an innovation race to exploit these technologies for military application at the earliest through various strategies such as civil-military integration. Countries have set up innovation accelerators to accelerate commercial innovation. For example DIU in US which is accelerating commercial innovation in areas of AI/ML, Autonomy, Cyber, Human Systems, and Space.


Another is DARPA model that gives thrust to radical innovation,  faster identification and exploration of bold and risky ideas and  setting challenging goals to industry. It empowers its tenure-limited program managers with trust, and autonomy, to take risks on innovative ideas and ambitious goals.


In October 2012, also created  an advanced military research agency in 2012, on the lines of the U.S. DARPA,  called Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects (Russian: Фонд перспективных исследований),


The FPI focuses on high payoff technologies, including for the defense sector, such as hypersonic vehicles, AI, unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), cognitive technologies, and directed energy weapons. Over the last decade, the programs pursued by the FPI have gradually expanded in key areas—primarily directed energy weapons, rail guns, hypersonic vehicles, and UUVs—have progressed to advanced stages.



Russian Foundation for Advanced Research

The Advanced Research Foundation (ARF) was established in 2012 by a Presidential decree that tasks the government with “ensuring the dynamic development of breakthrough high-risk research and development, fundamental science and implementation of applied research programs in the interest of ensuring the country’s defense and security” The foundation is tasked with informing the country’s leadership on projects that can ensure Russian superiority in defense technology. It will also analyze the risks of any Russian technological backwardness and technological dependence on other powers.


The aim of FPI is  to help Russia update its military equipment and develop new technologies. Some of the projects being implemented by the Advanced Research Fund have no analogs in the world, the Russian president said. In a visit in the Sverdlovsk region, Rogozin had said that Russia will not proceed like China and do not blindly copying Western models, but will have to develop by the ideas and technologies developed by itself. 


Russia’s “DARPA”, the Foundation for Advanced Studies (FPI), should play a leading role in both prioritising tasks and ensuring the economical use of existing funds because of budgetary constraints, Russian president Vladimir Putin told members of the Military-industrial Commission. According to Putin, “the Foundation’s projects are designed to play a decisive role in the development of key elements of the new generation of weapons, military, and special equipment. They should become the basis of the national weapons system at the turn of 2025–2030 both for the Army and Navy, and for a number of other industries and law enforcement agencies.”



“The main aim of this foundation is to eliminate a gap in our advanced research beside Western partners, after 20 years of stagnation in the whole Russian military science and defense industry” said Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin in his speech in front of the Russian parliament, quoted by RIA Novosti.


Rogozin added that the new agency will initially employ 100-150 of experts to monitor on medium and long term “high risk” on research and development projects of Russian defense firms and scientific institutions.


Thrust Areas

Putin had advised, “The chosen projects should be ambitious but realistic, and there should be no sand castles, scientific and technological illusions, or groundless fantasies. Futuristic weaponry, equipment for soldiers and cyberwarfare are the three main areas of the foundation’s research.


The foundation is currently working on over 50 projects, labs for which have been set up at leading Russian universities and research institutes. Recently it is giving thrust to AI projects.  Russia’s Foundation for Advanced Research Projects will design technology for decrypting images from space with the use of artificial intelligence (AI), the foundation’s press service told TASSin Jan 2019.


Putin warns: “Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia but for all of humankind. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.” The Russian military is also developing robots, anti-drone systems, and cruise missiles that would be able to analyze radars and make decisions on the altitude, speed and direction of their flight, according to state media.


RFARP is currently researching on Army Sixth Generation Systems, Air force Plasma-Stealth, Clean Fission, Army Survivalist Doctrine, Army New World Order, Army Integrated Military Systems and Air force New World Order. One priority project will incorporate advanced medical technology into the battle gear carried by soldiers. Another possible breakthrough targeted by 2020 is the launch of an orbital space plane from the super-heavy Antonov-225 Mriya transport aircraft, outlined  in a report by the public council of the government’s military-industrial commission. 


Militarization of AI

Recently FPI has stepped up focus on AI, when Vladimir Putin said last fall that artificial intelligence is “humanity’s future” and that the country that masters it will “get to rule the world,” The Russian government has released a national strategy for artificial intelligence


FPI called for proposals for the MOD to standardize artificial intelligence development along four lines of effort: image recognition, speech recognition, control of autonomous military systems, and information support for weapons’ life-cycle. It brought the latest in a series of government-sponsored forums intended to discuss domestic AI developments, review international achievements in the field — and spur the development of proposals aimed at the “targeted orientation of the Russian scientific community and the Russian state on the issues and tasks of creating artificial intelligence.” There is also a new Russian AI Association, which brings together academic and private-sector institutions to plan various technological, socio-cultural, and even philosophical developments.



As part of a project to create technology for the automatic decoding of aerospace information, technologies are being developed which will make it possible to automatically identify various objects on the Earth’s surface from satellite images, for example aircraft and vehicles, and even determine their type (for example, passenger vehicles or trucks) and in some instances their model (for example, a Kamaz or a ZIL automobile),” the foundation told TASS.


The agency noted that AI technologies would gain popularity in the defense and security industries in the future. Technologies for image recognition, autonomous navigation, human speech processing and forecasting the behavior of complicated systems will be most sought after.


The foundation also reported that a contest for designers of automatic speech synthesis systems was announced in November 2018. The specified technology may replace a human operator in distance learning or keeping the population informed during emergency conditions.



Russia to Create Technology to Identify Terrorist Bases on Drone Photos in 2019

Russian scientists are successfully developing technologies to automatically identify terrorist bases in photographs taken by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). “The project is developing very successfully. A number of field tests have been conducted, which confirm the effectiveness of the developed technologies. The project is expected to be completed in 2019,” head of the information research department of the Foundation for Advanced Research (FPI) Sergei Garbuk said.


According to Garbuk, two technologies are being created within the framework of this project. The first one is aimed at detecting arms caches and terrorist shelters in photos taken by drones. “The second technology is connected with tasks of a defensive nature — the automatic detection of aviation, naval equipment, land armament on images obtained from space,” Garbuk added.


The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology is the primary developer of the technology.



Integrated protective soldier systems

The IPSS will work on the radical use of technologies such as nano technology, powered exoskeletons, and magnetorheological fluid-based body armor to provide infantry with significantly higher force multiplier than the opposing force. The Defense Ministry hopes to develop a fully realized end product sometime in 2028, incorporating research from the Defense Ministry’s exoskeleton project and the Soldier Nanotechnologies into a final design.

The first phase of the project involves a development of technologies to help reduce the soldier’s fighting load and power requirements and improving the soldier’s protection, lethality, and environmental and situational awareness.



Robots Will Soon Replace Soldiers on the Field

According to a recent statement made by an executive from Russia’s Advanced Research Foundation, robots will soon be replacing humans in combat. “Living fighters will gradually begin to be replaced by their robotic ‘brothers’ who can act faster, more accurately and more selectively than people,” Vitaly Davydov, deputy director of Russia’s Advanced Research Foundation, told RIA Novosti in April 2020.


Russia is not alone in developing war robots, as the United States is also working on its own robotic military. Both countries are, in fact, developing swarms of ground robots. The robots are expected to be faster and more accurate in target selection than people.


Augmented Reality to Allow Superhuman Vision for Russian Combat Fighters

Russian military pilots will soon have new helmets with augmented reality (AG) technology, the press service of Russia’s Advanced Research Foundation reported, according to Rossiyskaya Gazeta. AR is a view of real-world environment in which some elements are “augmented” (or added/supplemented) by computer-generated sensory data, such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. The technology allows people to see information and data that they normally wouldn’t be able to.


The new technology will be used to improve helmets of combat aircraft pilots, Rossiyskaya Gazeta said. AR will allow pilots to have additional information on the windshield of their helmet, such as visuals from angles that they can’t see. Moreover, combat pilots will be able to aim at their targets hand-free, simply using a turn of their head to immediately fire weapons. The project is expected to be sold in several stages, gradually developing complexity of AR technology and expanding its functionality, said Sergei Garbuka, a high-ranking official from the Advanced Research Foundation.



Russia developing  combat Robots

The development and production of robots in the country is currently being undertaken by the Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects (an equivalent of the American Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA), as well as by various research institutes and centers.


The Russian military divides combat robots into three generations:

– First-generation robots have software and remote control that can only function in an organized environment.
– Second-generation robots are adaptive to changes in their environment, having a kind of sensory organs and an ability to function in a random environment.
– Third-generation robots are smart robots equipped with an AI-based control system.


Unmanned tanks and torpedo boats, robot soldiers, and others that are used to support combat activity of troops in conditions adverse to humans should be regarded as the simplest combat robots.


Combat robot-android

State-funded Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects has developed a human like Fedor, which  at the moment,  is able to lift weights, crawl and drive in a straight line.


Fedor rose to internet fame earlier this year when Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin posted a video of the android firing a gun in each hand, but the minister denied Russia was working on a “terminator” bot. Russia’s new humanoid robot F.E.D.O.R. has started practicing target shooting as its creators seek to improve the android’s fine motor skills and decision-making algorithms.


Andrey Grigoryev, director-general of the Advanced Research Projects Foundation (ARF), told RIA-Novosti: A combat robot-android that resembles a human in appearance, will be able to run, cross a barrier line and perform other actions, according to our plans. It will be controlled by human brian via new brain-computer interface technology. The robot was seen driving a 4×4 bike through an obstacle course,  is expected to learn how to run.


Russia’s state space agency Roscosmos announced in March that it has selected Fedor to pilot the agency’s new spacecraft Federatsiya into orbit in 2021—a flight he may undertake solo. Fedor is supposed to be ready to join preliminary tests for Federatsiya’s first training flight in 2020, with an eye on joining the crew of the International Space Station by 2024, Russian newspaper Izvestia reported, citing Sergei Hurs, the project director.


Russia’s Marker robot is a testbed for its next-gen military tech reported in Jan 2022

Russia announced that it had completed research on its experimental Marker robot combat vehicle. The machine, designed from the start as a testbed for future tools and technologies, was never designed for combat, but machines based on its features will be.


Marker is an uncrewed ground vehicle (UGV), similar in form if not armament to a tank. And like a tank, it has a tracked platform, onto which a range of sensors and weapons can be added. These include a turret with machine guns and anti-tank missiles, as well as a case that can launch drones.


“This is Russia’s most visible R&D project involving ground autonomy, swarm development, [ground robot and drone] teaming, and manned-unmanned teaming. Marker is also a test bed for military AI solutions such as machine vision, image recognition and natural language processing,” says Samuel Bendett, an analyst at the Center for Naval Analysis and adjunct senior fellow at the Center for New American Security.


In its support for wars in Syria and in eastern Ukraine, Russia has already fielded some new robots, but these have been in conventional use cases. Rather than introducing new combat formations, these robots have been a tool added to a bomb squadron, or a scout robot incorporated into normal reconnaissance duties. Marker, by testing systems like sensors or communications that can go on existing robots, may have led to improvements in how those robots work.

The country’s Ministry of Defense has announced plans to test its existing Uran-9 combat robot, its Kungas family of combat and scout robots, and the in-development Soratnik and Shturm robot tanks. “The Russian Ministry of Defense is pursuing swarm and group development for its aerial, ground and maritime robotics systems,” says Bendett. “Integrating these uncrewed ground vehicles in a common operating environment with crewed weapons and systems is high on the Ministry’s agenda.”


By working with Marker, Russia has been able to explore how combat formations designed from the start to incorporate autonomous robots might work, and if those formations can augment existing forces. Better communications, scouting, and control tools, tested on the Marker, could let robots work in formation with crewed human vehicles, and this is a direction Russia has clearly indicated it wants to take its military robot design.


Since 2014, Russia has backed forces inside eastern Ukraine, and this winter, it appears to be mobilizing even more forces for a possible invasion of another part of the country. While Russian robots will likely feature in a modest role in any larger Ukraine/Russia war, the Marker will not be among those vehicles.


“It’s likely that Russia may utilize Uran-6 demining UGVs, as well as Scarab and Sphera small scouting robots tested by Russian sappers in Syria in demining operations,” says Bendett. “While the Russian military tested different combat UGV types during recent exercises such as Zapad-2021, it’s unlikely they could be used in a significant capacity in Ukraine.”



Russian Military Robot to Be Armed With Kamikaze Drones

The Russian robotic combat platform Marker may be armed with a number of sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Vitaly Davydov, deputy director-general of the country’s Foundation for Advanced Research, said in April 2020. He explained that the Marker will be equipped with UAVs “providing both reconnaissance and destruction of enemy targets”, which Davydov said would be obliterated upon such drones’ impact with the objects.


Apart from the UAVs, the platform will be armed with a rocket launcher and a machine gun, he added, referring to Marker’s ongoing tests, which are set to wrap up before the end of next year. According to Davydov, the Russian Defence Ministry is closely monitoring the implementation of the Marker project, which he said could add to better efficiency of the country’s Emergencies Ministry and the Federal Security Service, or FSB. The project, which Davydov’s foundation is developing jointly with the Russian company Android Technology, was for the first time rolled out at the Magnitogorsk test site for robotic systems and complexes in October 2019.


Underwater robots

The Foundation  will be the organizing large-scale tournament  in underwater and marine robotics on behalf of the board of the Military Industrial Commission of Russia and the Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin in 2018. “There are many tasks that need to be addressed in open maritime areas of Russia—including scientific and technical tasks related to the need to ensure the security of the country, as well as important environmental tasks—for example, monitoring the state of the water area and counteracting poachers. Vast expanses of the sea require constant monitoring, including in the sparsely populated regions of Russia, where the use of appropriate robotic systems has helped to ensure full and continuous monitoring of the state of the ocean,” commented Alexey Kononov, the deputy head of the National Center for the Development of Technology and Basic Elements of Robotics, Foundation for Advanced Research Projects.


Russia’s advanced military technology agency is working on a special underwater robot to protect Russian shores from foreign underwater intruders, news agency TASS reported.  The project will be taken on as part of ongoing research into methods of detecting and locating ultra-quiet underwater objects. “In the course of this project, the laboratory is creating a special underwater robot,” a spokesperson for the Foundation for Advanced Research Projects told TASS. The underwater robot appears to be an answer to a similar U.S. Navy and DARPA program, known as the Persistent Littoral Undersea Surveillance, or PLUS, program. PLUS has already seen limited deployment, The Wall Street Journal reported last year.


‘Quadcopter’ Controlled by Human Thought

The Zelenograd company Neurobotics, working for the Advanced Research Foundation of the Russian Federation (ARF), which supports programs of interest to the defense industry, created a neuro-interface that can control a quadcopter through brain impulses, literally, by the power of thought. “For the technology to be of use on the battlefield, we had to do more than just control the copter,” said the Executive Director of Neurobotics, Vladimir Konyshev. “Our demonstrator moved while operating the copter, and it could recognize direct as well as programmed commands, for example a flight to a specific point. We proved that under the right conditions the copter can be controlled by the mind.”


“A soldier running with his gun is being fired on by a sniper,” Konyshev says. “After several months of training, he would be able to drop to the ground while mentally ordering the copter to transmit an image of where the fire is coming from to his tactical goggles.” The generation of commands, or “states”, as we call them (the sensors on the demonstrator’s head record them) is tied to the use of special psychic techniques. A person in a given situation proposes actions that the system can recognize. For example, he can imagine clenching a fist three times.

Russian Airships shall employ photonics based radar for Missile Defence in 2018

KRET and the Foundation for Advanced Research (FAR) are working together to create a phased array antenna based on radio-photons. The radio-photonic radar system will be based on active radio-optical phased array (Russian abbreviation: ROFAR) technology being developed now by Radio-Electronic Technologies Concern (KRET), an integral part of the Rostech state corporation.


It is expected to open a new era of light and precise radar electronics for systems where weight is critical, such as drones and satellites. In the future, he said, the antenna system based on the principles of radio-photons can be mounted on airships and used as part of the missile defense system. “There is no need to build a huge antenna on the ground when you can simply raise the antenna to the necessary height and look beyond the horizon,” said Vladimir Mikheev.


“The antenna will be designed within the next two years. “We are planning to begin production of the radar based on the principles of radio-photons by 2020,” said Vladimir Mikheev, adviser to the first deputy CEO of KRET, as reported by TASS. As previously reported, state investment in the project for developing an active phased array radar based on radio-photons will amount to 680 million rubles.


Radio-photons are an analog of electronics, though photons, unlike electrons, have neither mass nor charge. The new concept will reduce the weight of the equipment by 1.5-3 times, increase its reliability and efficiency by 2-3 times, and increase the scanning speed and resolution dozens of times over. This will help create broadband radars whose resolution and speed enable what is called radar sight.  KRET announced that radio-photonic antennas will have “unique stability” regards electromagnetic-frequency impulses, such as those caused by close-range lightning strikes, solar magnetic storms and EMP effects caused by nuclear explosions.


KRET believes that radio-photonic technology will pave the way for both military and civilian electronics of the future, as the tech will be applied in radio astronomy, radio detection and ranging, optical fiber and mobile communications and other practical fields. Such systems also have application in helping high-speed trains instantly detect obstacles on the tracks.


Dogs learn breathing underwater as Russian scientists test liquid respirational technology

The ability to breathe liquid is no longer just the realm of sci-fi anymore (or limited to fish) as scientists from Russia’s Foundation for Advanced Research Projects have recently showcased their latest breakthrough, which makes this impossible feat possible. To demonstrate the novel technology, they dipped a dachshund in a reservoir with a liquid rich in oxygen.


“We are already holding live tests. We began with mice and other small animals. Now, we are carrying out experiments on large animals. Dogs are acting as testers,” Davydov said. For now, dogs can breathe for half an hour at a depth of up to 500 meters without any health consequences, Davydov said.


Russia’s “liquid respirational technology”  will allow humans to breathe underwater and not drown since their lungs will be filled with a special oxygen-rich liquid, which gets into the blood system. The Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects is developing the technology to save submariners of the Russian Navy from drowning should they abandon their stricken submarines underwater.


The main challenge, however, is to find a formula for a liquid that allows underwater breathing. It also involves developing the technology to inject the liquid into and withdraw it from the body. “A psychological barrier will also have to be overcome, a person would actually have to suffocate in water voluntarily to start breathing with the liquid filling his lungs,” according to Davydov. 


Comparison with DARPA

One of big difference is that DARPA’s budget is nearly $3 billion, while the Foundation for Military Research has a budget of 3.3 billion rubles ($100 million). DARPA’s success is based on highly innovative US culture, excellent research centers and manpower, mature and globally competitive Industrial Base and excellent Industry-Academia interactions.


“Unlike DARPA, Russia lacks the specialists to identify the promising areas for breakthrough technologies,” said Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of the National Defense magazine. What projects the foundation has received are mostly based on past research rather than new innovative ideas, he said.


The goal should be to put aside the issues the defense industry is faced with today and to plan 10 to 20 years ahead, just what DARPA is doing, Korotchenko said. “But we have a problem with strategic planning. There is no such culture; we are looking only three to five years in the future.”



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