To make this website work, we log user data. By using Shephard's online services, you agree to our Privacy Policy, including cookie policy.

Open menu Search

Future US Army capabilities will be largely unmanned

5th June 2024 - 15:57 GMT | by Flavia Camargos Pereira in Kansas City


A Project Origin experimental vehicle dispenses smoke during a Soldier Touchpoint at Fort Benning. (Photo: US Army)

The branch plans to invest more than US$1 billion in uncrewed/autonomous solutions over FY2025.

The US Army foresees its future with a comprehensive inventory of unmanned capabilities and has been investing in various programmes within the realm. In its FY2025 budget proposal, it requested $1 billion for procurement and RDT&E efforts related to uncrewed systems, solutions and platforms.

The fund will enable acquiring diverse sizes and models of UAVs, progressing with the development of UGVs and increasing the use of autonomous electronic equipment.

“It is not about machines replacing humans,” claimed Gen James Rainey, commanding general of the US Army Futures Command. “It is how you optimise the two [humans and machines] so you get a better capability, [and] how we take risk and move it from our humans, our most valuable asset, to machines.”

Chief of Staff underlines uncrewed future for US Army

How the US Army is getting ready to succeed in contested multidomain scenarios

US Army prepares troops and equipment to avoid drone surveillance and attacks

Why lawmakers want the US Army to have a Drone Corps

Speaking in a recent webinar conducted by the US-based think tank CSIS, Rainey stated that “what we are witnessing is the very leading edge of the major disruption in the land domain that is going to be caused by machines” and “whoever figures that out is going to have such an advantage”.

In its budget request for the next fiscal year, the army disclosed its plans to transform its formations by using robots, not warfighters, to make first contact with the enemy.

“Soldiers will continue to do things that only humans can do, like make values-based decisions, accept or decline risk, and practice the art of mission command,” the branch stated in its budget justification documents.

The army has also planned to advance its Human-Machine Integrated Formation initiative over the FY2025. Led by the service’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO), the effort intends to access formation-based capabilities by buying and testing new equipment.

In terms of ground platforms, the branch has been conducting several acquisition and development initiatives under the Next Generation of Combat Vehicles programme.

This is the case of the Robotic Combat Vehicle (RCV), which comprises the procurement of three vehicles the army plans to develop: Light (RCV-L), Medium (RCV-M) and Heavy (RCV-H). These platforms will be deployed alongside fighting vehicles in order to deter ambushes and protect the flanks of mechanised formations.

Soldiers loading grenades onto a drone during an exercise in Fort Bragg. (Photo: US Army)

“An idea is to take a platoon that is the right combinations of robots, payloads, manned vehicles, humans, take risk off of soldiers and optimise because the battlefield is getting crazy,” Rainey noted. “The technology absolutely exists today. An enemy will get lucky once in a while, but we should not ever trade blood for first contact, whether it is a minefield or an IED, the enemy is laying in wait.”

Another initiative has been the XM30 Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle programme, which intends to provide the army with a platform capable of operating with or without a crew.

Previously named Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV), this effort has been planned as a replacement for the M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle fleet.

The service intends to deploy uncrewed systems in logistics. Within this domain, it has been focusing on automation, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), robotic and data analytics capacities, as well as on cyber, communication systems and advanced technologies.

The goal has been to identify and invest in predictive logistics capabilities in addition to leveraging the use of data analytics.

A Project Origin experimental vehicle is seen through a night vision device during a Soldier Touchpoint at Fort Benning. (Photo: US Army)

To advance with its data analytics effort, the service established a Contested Logistics Cross-Functional Team (CFT) in 2023, which has been focused on sustaining troops and equipment at the division level and below by evaluating solutions and technologies.

Moreover, the service has been exploring the use of underwater robotic vehicles in resupply missions. The US Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) has already conducted trials with commercially available solutions to evaluate their performance in carrying diverse types of payloads.

The service has also shown interest in purchasing new drones and improving its in-service UAV capabilities to enable operations in contested environments.

Currently, it has diverse sizes and models of UAS in its inventory. One of its priorities has been procuring low-cost systems that could be configurable to carry diverse types of payload and feature software and hardware open architecture.

From Rainey’s perspective, the “big thing” will be getting UAVs into the army’s formation at echelon “right now” in order to train soldiers to be able “to employ them just like they employ their weapon”.

Shephard's Eurosatory 2024 coverage is sponsored by:

BAE Systems
Flavia Camargos Pereira


Flavia Camargos Pereira

Flavia Camargos Pereira is a North America editor at Shephard Media. She joined the company …

Read full bio

Share to