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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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But, uh...
By Polynikes on 8/5/2007 11:43:23 PM , Rating: 2
I hate to say it, but this thing has a serious chance of being rendered ineffective very quickly. Why? It's toting an M249 SAW, which in my experience as a Marine infantryman is extremely prone to misfeeding and jamming under even the best conditions. On a line of 8 of them firing at a range, almost never were they all up and running properly for more than 30 seconds.

Next problem: hot barrels. Those barrels get hot fast and that robot sure as heck can't change them itself. I don't think it even has room for extras on there. This thing would only be good when deployed on the battlefield by a squad right in the middle of a fight, and I'd HATE to be the guy wasting time clearing jams and changing barrels. He'd be a sitting duck.

RE: But, uh...
By SandmanWN on 8/6/2007 10:25:32 AM , Rating: 2
Seems like you missed the part where its mobile. If it gets jammed or the barrel gets too hot you simply turn it around and head back to the nearest soldier. No need to be a doofus and go to its compromised and open position. Not to mention the military is asking for more than one so it makes sense that they use these in groups to ensure that breakdowns wouldn't cause a mission failure.

Put it this way... If you try with the robot and fail you've only lost a chunk of metal. I'm pretty sure that makes the whole ordeal worth while.

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