In a historic first, the Army conducted a live fire exercise with a remote-controlled ground combat vehicle armed with a .50-caliber machine gun. It plans to conduct more exercises with more heavily armed ground robots within the next couple of years.
The demonstration was part of the annual Northern Strike exercise, which took place last July and August at Michigan’s Camp Grayling. Primarily geared toward reserve units, this year’s event debuted an unmanned, heavily armed M113 armored personnel carrier. The driver and the weapons operator followed behind in a slightly larger M577 command post vehicle.
“The scenario here was a complex breach in a minefield,” Paul Rogers, director of the Army’s Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center, or TARDEC, said at the AUVSI conference on Wednesday. “You had engineer platoons with infantry support going in and putting in bangalore torpedos,” long tubes of explosives used to clear mines, he said. The remotely piloted M113 provided suppressive fire as the engineers worked.
It’s the first time that the Army has conducted an exercise with a ground robot providing fire. It won’t be the last. Army leaders have asked for more exercises with bigger guns, said Rogers. “We’re figuring out the details of what leadership expects and what we can deliver.” (For more on the Army’s plans for unmanned and autonomous robots, check the strategy they published last year.)