Fort Benning, Georgia, will play host to the demonstrations following the arrival of the new year, Defense News reported. The Abrams will be tested in the first phase, while the Humvee and M113 will follow in a later phase of the concept demonstrations, according to a slideshow presented at Fort Eustis, Virginia, earlier in December.
The Pentagon hopes for semi-autonomous wingmen to be deployed in 2023 and fully-autonomous air-support drones to go live in 2035. The unmanned systems are said to possess unmatched capacity to reduce troops’ physical and cognitive loads, enhance force sustainment, and facilitate maneuverability on the battlefield, according to military statements.
The move follows a model that has proven successful for US air crews. Pilots and support teams have featured unmanned and occasionally manned Shadow and Gray Eagle aircraft shadowing a larger Apache attack helicopter, to provide armed scout support.
The main goal of a semi-autonomous robot wingman is to add situational awareness for ground-support vehicles, without needing an alternative force structure, Lt. Gen. Michael Lundy said.
But the ground concept could prove to be a greater challenge than the air-based model. Particularly, the US Army is looking at whether the weapons loader in the Abrams tank could switch to operating the UAVs with the help of an automatic loader, Lundy noted. An automatic loader has been developed by the Pentagon but has not been used in combat situations.