US Army outlines robotic combat vehicle test plans
The US Army is set to carry out operational testing of robotic combat vehicles (RCVs) controlled from the back of modified Bradley Fighting Vehicles as part of work to inform where to go next with autonomous vehicles.
The testing, which will be conducted at Fort Carson, Colorado in March 2020, will provide input to Army Futures Command’s Combat Capabilities Development Command's Ground Vehicle Systems Center and Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team.
Upgraded Bradleys, called Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrators (MET-Ds) have been equipped with a remote turret for the 25mm main gun, 360-degree situational awareness cameras and enhanced crew stations with touchscreens. Initial testing will include two MET-Ds and four RCVs on M113 surrogate platforms. Each MET-D will have a driver and gunner as well as four soldiers in its rear, who will conduct platoon-level manoeuvres with two surrogate vehicles that fire 7.62mm machine guns.
A light infantry unit plans to experiment with the RCV light surrogate vehicles in Eastern Europe next May, then work will continue in 2021 with company-level manoeuvres. Experiments are slated to incorporate six MET-Ds and the same four M113 surrogates, in addition to four light and four medium surrogate RCVs to be supplied by industry.
The third phase of testing will take place in 2023, with the same number of MET-Ds and M113 surrogate vehicles, but with four medium and four heavy purpose-built RCVs.
According to the army, the family of RCVs will include three variants. The light version will be transportable by rotary wing, the medium variant would be able to fit onto a C-130 aircraft, and the heavy variant would fit onto a C-17 aircraft.
Both future and legacy armoured platforms, such as the forthcoming Mobile Protected Firepower ‘light tank,’ could influence the development of the RCV heavy. With no human operators inside it, the heavy RCV will be designed to provide the lethality associated with armoured combat vehicles in a much smaller form.
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