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Land operations


forward with a series of scouting trials using ‘robotic wingmen’ to support troops on the ground in Fort Hood, Texas. Major Cory Wallace, robotic combat vehicles lead for the US Army’s Next- Generation Combat Vehicles Cross-Functional Team, and Kevin Mills, associate director for robotics at the Ground Vehicle Systems Center, speak to Andrew Barnett about how these vehicles are being developed to take over operations deemed too dirty or dangerous for humans.


War machines M


A new era of cooperation between soldier and machine is dawning, as the US Army moves


inimise risk, protect assets and maximise returns on investment: those are the goals of armies looking to leverage advances in robotics to protect valuable soldiers on the battlefield. One such next-generation idea is the use of unmanned vehicles – either remotely piloted or operated autonomously – to distance humans from high-risk situations. The enormity of the task is self- evident and requires a multi-faceted approach. To make a meaningful impact in any theatre, a range of different-sized vehicles with enough commonality between them to deliver cost-efficient operational excellence is required. They also need to be flexible enough to ensure rapidly advancing technology can be easily incorporated into future updates. At the forefront of this challenge is the US Army’s Next-Generation Combat Vehicles Cross-Functional Team (NGCV CFT). This cutting-edge, tech-driven programme is focused on the rapid development and testing of a suite of three robotic combat


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vehicles (RCVs) that can step up to a variety of operational tasks. The light and medium RCVs are payload-agnostic platforms that can support a wide range of missions with configurations that can be tailored to the needs of commanders. A third, heavier, RCV is also in development. Each platform will have a primary mission role, according to Kevin Mills, the US Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center’s associate director for robotics. Light RCVs, for example, are designed to “covertly infiltrate to a position of advantage and build situational awareness for a commander, while at the same time reducing tactical risk to the formation”. The medium RCV, meanwhile, will provide additional manoeuvrability for units thanks to an enhanced direct-fire lethality suite and situational awareness sensors. The heavy RCV remains a work in progress. Its mission and requirements will be defined as the programme continues to evolve,


Defence & Security Systems International / www.defence-and-security.com


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