A few years ago I wrote an article, followed up later by a video, about the need for a cheap guided anti-vehicle-and-position weapon for infantry. My reasoning was that for many years now most militaries have ended up resorting to using anti-tank missiles for this particular job.
They can do the role perfectly fine – but they aren’t cheap.
I was actually thinking about a comparatively simple, manually guided weapon that could be manufactured cheaply through the use of off-the-shelf components. And lo-and-behold, with the Russian invasion of their country the Ukrainians came to the same conclusion. They have been prolific in their development and manufacture of cheap combat kamikaze drones, generally based on widely available civilian models, often high-speed racers.
But now the Ukrainians have announced they are fielding a new weapon that is even simpler than what I envisaged.
The Ratel S.
This even removes the complexity of making the weapon flight capable and, as you can see here, is a ground-based system. Essentially it’s a remote-control car with a camera and an explosive payload.
According to the limited information available the drone has a five-kilometer range, a two-hour battery charge and is capable of a maximum speed of 24km/h (15mph). The payload is obviously whatever is to hand, but pictures show the Ratel S fitted with mortar bombs and a TM-62 anti-tank mine.
This can carry a substantial explosive charge weighing 7.5kgs (17lbs) and has proven devastating against vehicles engaged in combat in Ukraine.
Moreover, the flexibility of the little car means that it wouldn’t just be used against vehicles, but that a soldier could drive it up to or even into an enemy position before detonating, which would have rather definite results on anyone in the vicinity.
Plus, the Ratel S is not just some pipe dream. According to Minister for Digital Transformation of the Ukrainian government, Mikhail Fedorov, the device is already in mass production and there are unconfirmed reports that it has already seen combat usage.
Here is a 🇺🇦-made kamikaze robot that'll soon rock Russians. Ratel S carries anti-tank mines & combat module. So, the operator can blow up enemie‘s equipment from a safe location. Ratel S already passed field tests & put into mass production. One more tech supported by @BRAVE1ua. pic.twitter.com/dqtS1WVUjW
— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) October 24, 2023
And yes, for those out there shouting at the screen, it reminds me of the Goliath remote-control bomb of World War Two too.
Truly, nothing is new under the sun. And with that said, it probably behooves the militaries of the world to really get thinking about this simple technology and the level of threat it could pose to their own forces in the near future.