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  (Source: Gizmodo)
U.S. Army places three gun-toting robots in Iraq

When it comes to robots on the battlefield, the U.S. military has a virtual skunkworks of contraptions roaming the ground and air.

In December, DailyTech reported on the iRobot PackBot which can detect enemy AK-47 gunfire via its Robot Enhanced Detection Outpost with Lasers (REDOWL) system. Just a few months ago, iRobot showed off its SUGV Early (Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle) which weighs in at 30 pounds -- this is compared to 44 pounds for the iRobot PackBot.

The U.S. Army is stepping up things in the battlefield robot arena dramatically with its new Special Weapons Observation Remote reconnaissance Direct action System (SWORDS). Three SWORDS robots were deployed in Iraq and their capabilities put human soldiers out of harm’s way.

Each robot can carry up to three M249 machines guns which are controlled by a soldier through a remote terminal. This means that every shot fired will have to be approved by a human -- the robot will not start firing without prior authorization.

As of today, no shots have been fired by the robots on the battlefield.

"Anytime you utilize technology to take a U.S. service member out of harm’s way, it is worth every penny," said John Saitta of Smart Business Advisory and Consulting. "These armed robots can be used as a force multiplier to augment an already significant force in the battle space."

The Army is pleased with the three SWORDS robots that it now has, but has requested an additional 80 for combat use. Unfortunately for the Army, additional funding has not been approved for the purchase.

"As [soldiers] use them and like them, I’ve heard positive feedback, they want 20 more immediately. It’s a shame we can’t get them to them," said SWORDS program manager Michael Zecca.

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By SavagePotato on 8/3/2007 10:54:48 AM , Rating: 3
As I started reading the article I got to the part about detecting AK-47 fire and thought holy cow, then got this image of a soldier picking up a spare AK and blasting away then getting wasted by the killer robot behind him.

The human control is a very good thing.

Reminds me of the time I was playing coop operation flashpoint and shot my friend in the back of the head in the middle of a battle cause he picked up a Russian gun. Much to his repeated complaining for hours and hours, he still bugs me about that.

RE: Funny
By SlyNine on 8/3/07, Rating: 0
RE: Funny
By SavagePotato on 8/3/2007 11:03:57 AM , Rating: 1
Actually it was a PKM, which personally I didn't care for. Much like the rest of the LMG's in flashpoint.

RE: Funny
By stromgald on 8/3/2007 1:22:13 PM , Rating: 2
Correct. It's a separate robot that detects and identifies gunfire. That one's pretty handy I think. Just keep it with the group and when you hear gunfire, you know where the enemy is and where the friendlies are (assuming they're using the correct rifles). It's also pretty useful at pinpointing snipers too, although the sniper has to shoot once for it to work.

To be honest, I'm not sure how useful this robot will be. Other than sneaking up on an entrenched enemy position and taking out some of the enemy, there's not all that much use to this robot. From the looks of it (yes, looks can be deceiving), it's probably more of a liability in a close-range fire fight.

RE: Funny
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 8/3/2007 4:11:17 PM , Rating: 2
To be honest, I'm not sure how useful this robot will be

Sorry dude you must be nuts to think this would not have countless uses. Here's some quick ideas: information gathering in hostile areas, take out dogs or other guard animals, going around a corner before the soldiers - see what there and maybe take it out, the robot will not freak out under fire so you can count on it (while its up and running), deploy in dangerous areas - mine fields, enemy is 300 yards away and you need to cross the field to get to them...send a sword or two; not a soldier. This is from less then a minute of think. A soldier I bet can give 300 ideas in 7 minutes...all saving their lives.

Let me ask you this, if you were the enemy and you saw this come around the corner what would be your first thought? Me it would be, what the F... is that? then I'd be dead. I'm guessing no one will scream, shoot and keep shooting that baby tank till it blows up or smokes so bad, you know it will not work.

RE: Funny
By mindless1 on 8/5/2007 9:14:53 PM , Rating: 2
If I were a soldier and saw it coming my first thought would be, "hand grenade". Second thought would be "darn, if I hadn't blown it up I might've hacked it to be under my control, to drive right up to our enemy without them realizing it was about to attack THEM".

RE: Funny
By JimFear on 8/7/2007 8:33:48 AM , Rating: 2
I'm sure the kind of people this would be fighting against don't have the kind of skills or equipment to reverse engineer one of these things in the time it would take for a solider to notice some b*stard has robbed his robot. There are more than likely some kind of tracking device on them, which by the time you've found it they'll already know where you are.

These things are pretty cool though, all we need now is Skynet :P

RE: Funny
By Samus on 8/3/2007 4:44:32 PM , Rating: 4
AK's have proved more reliable than the M16 in Desert combat for years (at least the Russian models) because they don't jam as much from sand getting into its firing mechanism.

You've got to remember, that our Military technology is virgin to Desert warfare. Most of our current technology was developed for Jungle and mountainous regions. Just another reason our transportation equipment is failing as well.

Just to name a few problems:

Tank filters clogged
Ageing radio system "incapable"
AS90 gun filters melted
Helicopter parts unserviceable
Lynx rotor blades lasted just 27 hours
SA80 rifles jammed
Shortage of forklift trucks
Boots melted or fell apart

Complements of BBC news.

*Lynx helicopters are not US Military equipment. We use Cobra Attach and Sea Stallion choppers, slightly more reliable.

RE: Funny
By FITCamaro on 8/3/2007 11:56:41 AM , Rating: 2
Ah yes...because real world combat relates so closely to video games...

RE: Funny
By CascadingDarkness on 8/3/2007 1:17:46 PM , Rating: 2
You have obviously never played Operation Flashpoint, or its new successor Armed Assault. They are widely regarded under the genre of Combat/War simulators rather than just a video game. If your thinking Counter-Strike, or Battlefield 2 you could not be more off.

Adapted versions have been used around the world for training of troops during down time to help supplement costly live fire training.

I can see how picking up a PKM would get you killed by friendlys in real life or in game. Infact AKs functioned a lot better than early M-16s in Vietnam, but most people wouldn't touch them because firing a common enemy weapon will get you killed by friendlys.

I think these robots are great step in right direction to get less servicemen killed. My only question is three M249s? Do they aim independently, because I'm pretty sure all three at one target is a bit overkill. I understand a backup incase primary jams and they have no means to clear them yet?

Just my observations to the banter so far.
PS I've shot friendlys in ArmA who've picked up Soviet weapons too, much to the ire of teammates.

RE: Funny
By stromgald on 8/3/2007 1:26:56 PM , Rating: 2
It might be overkill, or they may be compensating for poor aiming accuracy. I'm not sure how pin-point accurate the servo motors are on it, especially in a dusty, sandy environment. Due to it's size alone, it might not be as stable as a human while shooting, so the extra firepower would ensure a hit/kill.

RE: Funny
By CascadingDarkness on 8/3/2007 3:30:52 PM , Rating: 2
Didn't think about it that way. I don't think more guns would increase hit/kill ratio though (suppose testing would be only way to know for sure). It does look like it has a nice large stable base (relatively) and in the video from another post it mentions it's 200lbs. Although the simple fact it's automatic and large caliber means it isn't going to make it too accurate.

My only guess is three guns would be better for suppression. I sure wouldn't want to stick my head out in front of three M249s blasting away. I bet that would be pretty useful for say rearguard to cover as live allies pull back/evac, or even to suppress while humans are advancing/flanking.

Just some guesses on my part. It sure would be sweet to see some video of these in action, even if it was just test live fire against targets with human team counter part. I'd be interested to see to what effect they work with human teams to be effective.

RE: Funny
By Martimus on 8/3/2007 6:06:39 PM , Rating: 2
I saw this on Future Weapons, and it is actually VERY accurate. It doesn't have to worry about muscle movement, so you can really zero in on a target and get a precise shot.

RE: Funny
By Chillin1248 on 8/3/2007 2:22:22 PM , Rating: 2
Operation Flashpoint was released in 2001 and then converted in the military training simulator Virtual Battlespace Systems 1 (VBS1):

BiS then released VBS2 with the updated "Virtual Reality" engine (I believe the same one used in their recent release, Armed Assault).


RE: Funny
By FITCamaro on 8/3/2007 4:46:01 PM , Rating: 2
Actually I did play it. I didn't find it very impressive either. The AI was stupid.

"Oh look. A tank coming towards me. I'll stand here and shoot at it with my assault rifle."

It had massive environments for its time. That was about all. I quickly bored of it.

RE: Funny
By Spoelie on 8/5/2007 11:02:17 AM , Rating: 2
it does seem to resemble movies however, just a few steps before we have the same "swords" as in the movie "screamers"

Screamers is set in the year 2078 on the planet Sirius 6B, a once thriving commercial hub and mining colony now reduced to a battle-torn wasteland by a prolonged war. The miners (or "The Alliance") created an army of self-constructing, artificially intelligent weapons called Autonomous Mobile Swords in an effort to gain the upper hand on their technologically and economically superior foe. These weapons were nicknamed the "screamers" by Alliance soldiers, due to the shrill screeching sound they emit as they attack.

RE: Funny
By VERTIGGO on 8/3/2007 4:46:44 PM , Rating: 2
Soldiers don't just "pick up a spare AK". At least in every Marine unit we use our own weapons, and carry our own NATO rounds. Of course an interpreter may grab one if the shit hits the fan. We don't arm them for day to day operations.

RE: Funny
By SlyNine on 8/3/2007 6:40:46 PM , Rating: 2
In reference to the video game .. So take the rods out of your.. Bums. it was a joke and as for the AK proving more reliable. perhaps, but definitely less effective

RE: Funny
By SavagePotato on 8/3/2007 9:07:25 PM , Rating: 1
Holy shit people. Laugh much? smile ever?

Make a joke about a video game and killer robots and you get railroaded by tightwads about military protocol or how much said game sucks in their opinion.

The guy moaning about how unrealistic flashpoint was and how much it bored him, take a break from bitching for a while or something.

You could post that the second coming of christ just started and someone on the internet would find a reason to go on a bitch rant about it.

RE: Funny
By SlyNine on 8/4/2007 2:02:39 AM , Rating: 2
They should include these in Americas army's video game.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)
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