(www.defensenews.com – Jen Judson) – US Army tackles teaming robots and ground forces on battlefield

FORT BENNING, Ga. ― The U.S. Army is no stranger to teaming manned aircraft with unmanned ones, but it is now tackling how to approach the concept on the ground ― a far more complicated undertaking considering the difficult and extremely variable terrain and the multitude of terrestrial threats that exist on the modern battlefield.

The Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence held a demonstration at Fort Benning, Georgia, on Tuesday that showcased its efforts to develop a robotic wingman within the maneuver force and how to incorporate robotic capability within a tank formation.

Almost out of necessity, the Army has progressed rapidly in aerial manned-unmanned teaming. It was already deep in testing the concept of pairing manned helicopters with unmanned aircraft systems when the service decided in 2013 to restructure its aviation fleet. The move included retiring the Army’s armed scout helicopter ― the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior ― and filling the gap with AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and Shadow drones. The capability is fielded, being used operationally and continues to grow incrementally.

The Army sees a promising future for manned-unmanned teaming, or MUM-T, in ground maneuver forces, but has years to go before there’s a clear picture of how capability will be implemented in real battlefield scenarios.

“We think you can pair unmanned aerial systems, unmanned ground systems with the ground force to extend the reach of that formation and extend the time over which they can be effective,” Don Sando, the deputy to the commanding general for combat development at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, told Defense News at Tuesday‘s demonstration.

Much of the technology is there to drive robotics and autonomy into maneuver formations, but when it comes to developing the tactics, techniques and procedures, the Army is figuring out “how we want to massage this,” said Robert Sadowski, robotics chief with the Army‘s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center. “The next 10 to 15 years will help us figure out how we want to embed robotics and autonomous systems into the formation.”

Much of the work now is being driven by the Army’s Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy and its Robotics and Autonomous Systems Strategy, both published roughly within the last two years. (…)


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