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Army Fielding Robo Jeeps in A’Stan

by John Reed on August 5, 2011

In case you didn’t see this, Army is set to send four of Lockheed’s Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) robot jeeps to Afghanistan where they’ll haul supplies for troops. The trucks are being sent there as part of a test program to see just how useful robot cargo trucks can be. The 11-foot long trucks can carry a half a ton of supplies for  up to 125 miles after being delivered to the field in a CH-47 or CH-53 helo.

The SMSS can either lock on to and follow the 3D profile of a soldier using its on-board sensors or it can use GPS to navigate along a pre-programmed route. Oh, and yes, there’s still the option for a man to hop in and drive it.

Besides the obvious benefit of reducing the load carried by an infantryman (giving him more mobility and energy) the little trucks could be the first step toward reducing the number of humans needed to ressuply bases. As many of you know, the military has taken to airlifting supplies to remote bases in an effort to take convoys of manned trucks off the road where they are vulnerable to ambushes and IED attacks. However, in time, it may be possible to use robo-trucks to resupply bases.

From a Lockheed announcement:

The largest autonomous vehicle ever to be deployed with infantry, the 11-foot-long SMSS can carry more than half-a-ton of a squad’s equipment on rugged terrain, easing the individual soldier’s burden, which can often exceed 100 pounds.

“SMSS is the result of more than a decade of robotic technology development, and we welcome the opportunity to demonstrate this capability in theater, where it can have an immediate impact at the squad level,” said Scott Greene, vice president of ground vehicles in Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control business. “The Army has tested the system’s capabilities in three domestic user assessments, and SMSS has been deemed ready to deploy.”

As part of the three-month Military Utility Assessment (MUA), four vehicles and a field service representative will support light infantry in theater as the service evaluates how autonomous vehicles can support or ease the equipment burden for deployed troops. A fifth vehicle and an engineering team will remain in the U.S. for analysis and additional support. The Army plans to begin the Afghanistan assessment late this year, after a period of evaluations and training.

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