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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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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.

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan
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