US Army’s professional association conference features armed robots

The recent Association of the United States Army (AUSA) conference featured a number of armed robots and similar technologies on display.

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At the conference, one of the companies that garnered significant attention was German company Rheinmetall, which launched its hybrid and electric drivetrain vehicle, the Mission Master-CXT. The model is a mid-sized unmanned vehicle that can shuttle weapons – and autonomously identify targets and launch strikes.

Here is what Alain Tremblay, VP of business development and innovation, said in a statement published by Defense One:

“The restriction on the weapon system is a client decision, not what we’re providing. If a client says, ‘I’m comfortable from a rule-of-engagement, a law-of-armed-conflict and Geneva-Convention [angle], to have this thing finding a target and engaging a target’-it can do that.”

It shouldn’t be a surprise the conference highlighted militarized robot technology, as it has become a topic of interest for the military. During its fiscal year of 2023, the US Army is seeking a robotic combat vehicle and will invest upwards of $750 million over the next five years looking for specific robotic-based developments.

In late 2021, the Army first performed a live-fire test using the Robotic Combat Vehicle-Medium (RCV-M), with the unmanned and wirelessly-operated weapon station firing the main gun and M240 machine gun.

Even if fully autonomous weaponized robots don’t hit the battlefield soon, there is room for human operators and these cutting-edge robots to work together.

There is obvious concern about the idea of robots on the battlefield – autonomous or weaponized robots – able to identify and engage targets. US military officials want to acquire their own solutions, especially with China pushing forward with its own development of robotic combat weapons.

Earlier this month, a consortium of leading robotics companies published an open letter to pledge their general-purpose robots will not be weaponized. Boston Dynamics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics, and Unitree vowed to do their best to make sure their customers don’t have plans to arm the acquired technology.

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Michael Hatamoto