The United States Army recently demonstrated some new killer robots at Fort Benning, near the city of Columbus, Georgia. While these robots are new, some of the gear they used looks awfully familiar to grunts.
According to a report by the Army Times, automated versions of the M113 armored personnel carrier and the High-Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle, or HMMWV, were among the robots that were shown off to high-raking brass. These vehicles are currently planned for replacement by the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
Troops make their exit from a M113. (Photo: US Army)
While it might seem odd to use the older vehicles as the basis for robots, keep this in mind: The military has thousands of M113s and thousands of HMMWVs on inventory. The vehicles have also been widely exported. In fact, the M113 is so widely used, it's hard to imagine anyone would want the used M113s the United States Army has to offer. The same goes for the HMMWV.
Furthermore, while these vehicles may not be ones that you can keep troops in during combat, they can still drive. They can carry cargo. Or, they can carry some firepower. With today's ability to either drive vehicles by remote control, or to program them to carry out missions, these vehicles could have a lot of useful service left to give.
A U.S. Army HMMWV in Saladin Province, Iraq in March 2006. (Photo: U.S. Navy)
An Army release had details about how the old platforms helped. One M113 was used to deploy other robots from its troop compartment – one that could hold 11 grunts. Another M113 was used to provide smoke – and conceal a pair of M1A2 Abrams tanks. An unnamed HMMWV demonstrated its ability to use a remote weapon station and a target acquisition system.
That's not all. The military also had a modified Polaris all-terrain vehicle show its stuff. The ATV also featured an unmanned aerial vehicle on a tether. Such an eye in the sky can have huge benefits. Furthermore, the ATV has a much lower profile.
If these experiments are any indication, American grunts will still be seeing the M113 and HMMWV on the battlefield. This time, though, they will be fighting alongside them, not riding in them.