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Robotic combat vehicles could change way we fight

Photo: A remote-controlled concept assault breacher vehicle prepares to breach an obstacle during testing. Photo: Spc. Daneille Hendrix / US Army


The changing nature of war along with the proliferation of new technology available to adversaries is forcing armed forces to increasingly look at the use of robotic combat vehicles.

Speaking at the International Armored Vehicles USA conference, Gen. John Murray, head of the US Army Futures Command (AFC), said this was one way in which soldiers could in future knock out defences.

Gen. John Murray, head of Army Futures Command. Photo: Sean Kimmons / US Army

During a Joint Warfighting Assessment in May, Murray observed soldiers and marines conducting defensive and attack manoeuvres using breacher vehicles with robotic capabilities. “If there’s one single thing I think that will change fundamentally the way we look and the way we fight,” he said, “it is the possibility of deploying robotic combat vehicles in the future, either completely autonomous or semi-autonomous as wingmen.”

A remote-controlled concept assault breacher vehicle prepares to breach an obstacle during testing. Photo: Spc. Daneille Hendrix / US Army

Representing the most significant army reorganisation effort since 1973, AFC was set up to prepare for the ongoing changes in warfare. “The army fundamentally woke up and realised that we have missed the wave,” said Gen. Murray. “They were crashing on the shore and we were about chest deep in water.”

Maj. Gen. Gary Brito, head of the US Army Maneuver Center of Excellence said things needed to change. “The operational environment, threat and technology are driving us to change.” Today’s potential adversaries had expanded the battlefield in four ways: time, domains, geography and nontraditional actors, said Brito. Whether autonomous or not, he said the next-generation combat vehicles would need to be innovative, agile, flexible and adaptive in order to succeed in a more chaotic and dispersed battlefield.

Nearly $30bn will be used over the next five years in modernisation programs, such as combat vehicles.

“If we don’t do it now, we’ll probably be in (M1 Abrams tanks), Bradleys and (M113 armoured personnel carriers) in 2035,” said Murray. “We just knew we couldn’t do that. We were behind.” The character of war is changing, he explained, which is compounded by the proliferation of technology that is also available to adversaries. “The rate of technological innovation will continue to increase at an ever-accelerating pace,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to slow it down. We’re going to have to figure out how to adapt to that rate of innovation.”


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