Russia’s new rocket-launching robot attack dog may not be all it seems

·3-min read
The robotic attack dog is armed with a RPG-26 anti-tank rocket - but it might actually be a commercially-available 'home helper' sold online by Chinese websites
The robotic attack dog is armed with a RPG-26 anti-tank rocket - but it might actually be a commercially-available 'home helper' sold online by Chinese websites

A rocket-launching robotic attack dog unveiled at an arms expo is in fact a commercially-available “home helper” sold online by Chinese websites.

Moscow unveiled the so-called M-81 war machine, armed with a RPG-26 anti-tank rocket, at the Army 2022 arms expo opened by Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, earlier this week.

Russian state media broadcast footage of the “robot dog” - dressed in a ninja-like outfit - walking backwards and forwards, as well as sitting, before interacting with its audience.

The futuristic robodog was said to be able to designate and strike targets, as well as conduct patrol and scouting missions.

But military experts pointed out that the contraption bears a striking resemblance to a Chinese-made “Go1” Yushu Technology Dog, manufactured by Unitree.

The robot dog is similar to one manufactured by Unitree in China
The robot dog is similar to one manufactured by Unitree in China

The device can be purchased on AliExpress, a Chinese online marketplace similar to Amazon, for between £2,500 and £3,000.

Given Russia’s propensity to unveil fictitious weapons, internet sleuths pored over the new technology for clues it could be a fake.

The dog’s frame was shrouded in a black fabric coverall, experts said, to hide the fact it is a commercial robot.

However, the covering left the device’s “eyes” exposed, revealing the same positioning and silver colouring as Unitree’s robotic dog.

And while the Chinese device would be able to support the weight of an RPG-26 launcher, it is uncertain the machine would be able to handle the recoil from firing the weapon.

it is believed the item displayed at the Russian expo is actually a Chinese-made 'Go1' Yushu Technology Dog
it is believed the item displayed at the Russian expo is actually a Chinese-made 'Go1' Yushu Technology Dog

With Russia cut off from its supply of Western microchips and other electronic components, analysts argue it is unlikely Moscow would be able to produce its own military-grade technology for the foreseeable future.

The robotic dog's apparent Russian developer, Machine Intellect, based in St Petersburg, does not appear to have any online presence apart from its appearance at the arms exhibition.

“It seems pretty clear that the robot was not designed by the Russian manufacturer displaying it at the Army 2022 exhibition, nor is it of a military grade of any kind,” wrote The Warzone online newspaper.

"Given the nature of some of the weapons unveiled at Russian military-technology exhibitions in the past, a degree of scepticism needs to be applied to whether the new Russian 'robot dog' is representative of a functional concept for future military use.”

Visitors browse weapons at the Army 2022 arms expo - Getty Images
Visitors browse weapons at the Army 2022 arms expo - Getty Images

Putin opened this year's arms exhibition on Monday, boasting that his country's weapons were "decades" ahead of their rivals.

Elsewhere at the exhibition, a Russian submarine-maker unveiled a new concept for a nuclear stealth sub, capable of carrying 12 nuclear missiles.

Previously, Russian weapons manufacturer Kalashnikov used the event to unveil a 13ft mecha-like robot that resembled the Star Wars film franchise's AT-ST walker.