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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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A Good First Draft
By Arrundale on 8/4/2007 11:17:59 AM , Rating: 2
One day we will look back on these as we do the biplane in aviation: a critical principle is there but the execution is primitive.

These bots are insufficiently lethal, too expensive, controlled by specialists and are outside the command and control of the battlefield commander.

The tactics of our enemy will be incorporated into a bot with American technology and the cost-efficiencies of mass production. One day we will flood the battlefield with "one use," low cost "IED" bots that have the option of being a frag charge or a narrow, explosively formed charge.

Under cover of darkness any urban environment could be flooded with tamper-proof bots designed to eliminate hostiles: tamper with one and you're dead, shoot at one and the nearest frag charge eliminates the threat to the "network."

A "strategic" inventory of Robotic Explosive Devices (a US RED army ?!) that could saturate "X" square miles of enemy territory will be part of a new political calculus that will balance the costs of this new inventory against the political costs, and human lives lost, of protracted urban warfare.




RE: A Good First Draft
By augiem on 8/4/2007 1:11:55 PM , Rating: 2
Explosive robots... In your scenario, I'd say they should be very small flying robots. If they're meant to kill people, the smaller the better. Maybe insect sized or even smaller to make detection harder. If they're for blowing up structures, obviously they'd have to be bigger.

Of course, they'd probably be easier to defend against than a bullet, but in massive numbers, I'm sure they'd be effective (and wonderfully expensive just like the gov and wpn contractors like it).


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