China's military shows off rifle-toting robot dogs

Cambodian and Chinese military leaders attend a demonstration of a machine gun-equipped robot battle "dog" in the Kampong Chhnang province of Cambodia on May 16.

Cambodian and Chinese military leaders attend a demonstration of a machine gun-equipped robot battle "dog" in the Kampong Chhnang province of Cambodia on May 16. (Tang Chhin Sothy, Getty Images)

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KAMPONG CHHNANG, Cambodia — It looks like something out of the dystopian show "Black Mirror," but it's just the latest adaptation of robotics for the modern battlefield.

During recent military drills with Cambodia, China's military showed off a robot dog with an automatic rifle mounted on its back, essentially turning man's best friend into a killing machine.

"It can serve as a new member in our urban combat operations, replacing our (human) members to conduct reconnaissance and identify (the) enemy and strike the target," a soldier identified as Chen Wei says in a video from state broadcaster CCTV.

The two-minute video made during the China-Cambodia "Golden Dragon 2024" exercise also shows the robot dog walking, hopping, lying down and moving backward under the control of a remote operator.

In one drill, the rifle-firing robot leads an infantry unit into a simulated building.

The latter part of the video also shows an automatic rifle mounted under a six-rotor aerial drone, illustrating what the video says is China's "variety of intelligent unmanned equipment."

Military use of robot dogs — and small aerial drones – is nothing new. A CCTV video from last year also highlighted China's rifle-armed electronic canines in a joint exercise involving the Chinese, Cambodian, Lao, Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese militaries held in China last November.

In 2020, the U.S. Air Force demonstrated how it used robotic dogs as one link in its Advanced Battle Management System, which uses artificial intelligence and rapid data analytics to detect and counter threats to U.S. military assets.

And since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, drones have become commonplace on the battlefield, on the land, sea and air, with cheap remotely controlled vehicles able to knock out sophisticated military machines like tanks and even warships.

The lethal abilities of drones seen on the Ukraine battlefields has shown them to be great equalizers, enabling military forces with small defense budgets to compete with substantially better-armed and better-funded enemies.

China is one of the world's leading drone exporters, but last year its Commerce Ministry placed export controls on drone technology, citing the need to "safeguard national security and interests."

Nevertheless, the robotic dogs seem to be getting plenty of publicity for the People's Liberation Army.

And the dogs have been popping up on China's heavily regulated social media for at least a year.

According to the state-run Global Times, the presence of robotic dogs at exercises with foreign militaries indicates an advanced stage of development.

"Usually, a new equipment will not be brought into a joint exercise with another country, so the robot dogs must have reached a certain level of technical maturity," Global Times quoted an unnamed expert as saying.

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Brad Lendon and Nectar Gan


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