The US army has said in a release on Thursday that it will begin live testing a new Robot Combat Vehicle (RCV) next year.
The tests will not involve vehicles meant for immediate combat situations, they will be used to showcase new technologies which may be integrated in the future as well as how soldiers could use them in the field.
The vehicles are controlled by Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrators (MET-Ds), which are upgraded Bradley Fighting Vehicles that are manned by a crew inside the vehicle using touchscreen panels.
The MET-D's sport a remote turret with a 23mm gun and have 360 degree situational awareness.
Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrator (MET-D) vehicles: leveraging the latest tech in cameras, data display, GUI, drive-by-wire capability, unmanned aerial vehicle-provided video, & advanced comms to help w/ battlefield situational awareness & enhance communication capability pic.twitter.com/SyWTwohq5g— U.S. Army CCDC Ground Vehicle Systems Center (@CCDC_GVSC) July 1, 2019
There are three phases of testing planned for the new vehicles.
The first will include 2 MET-Ds and 4 RCVs and is scheduled next March at Fort Carson, Colorado. The tests will be assessed by the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center and the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team, who will modify the technology for further exercises.
Infantry will partake in the second test which will take place in May 2021 and will be on a much larger scale with an infantry unit in Europe and another later in 2021 with 6 MET-Ds and 4 M113 RCVs, as well as 4 light and medium RCVs to conduct company-level missions.
A third test will occur in 2023 and will include 6 MET-Ds, 4 M113 RCVs, as well as 4 medium and heavy RCVs.
While these new robot vehicles are only surrogates, they will set the stage for testing technologies which will eventually be used in active military situations.
According to David Centeno Jr., chief of the centre’s Emerging Capabilities Office, the new RCVs will allow for “freedom of air and ground manoeuvre” which will keep soldiers out of range.
Further robotic weaponry projects are being developed. The army hosted a 6 team competition in May, consisting of 8 remote-controlled prototype RCVs on a course in Texas as a means to demonstrate their abilities and further understand the role of the vehicles in the future.
Eventually, RCVs are expected get much smaller and lighter as they will not have to carry people.