Pick up, take away, recharge. Pentagon buys robotic vehicles

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Pick up, take away, recharge. Pentagon buys robotic vehicles
Pick up, take away, recharge. Pentagon buys robotic vehicles
8 November, 14:10TechnologyPhoto: Соцсети
The US Army will be the first military force in the world to use such ground transport robots.

Alexander Sychev

General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) has delivered the first batch of 16 Small Multipurpose Equipment Transport (S-MET) to the US Army.

The idea to make it easier for soldiers to transport goods for an entire department has been around for a long time among American defense companies. They invented wheeled, tracked systems. There are robots on four legs. They had to overcome rough terrain, follow the units, carry significant military belongings, and, if necessary, show independence. A lot has been accomplished over the years. The robot dog already guards the perimeter of American bases, and now there is a robot truck.

In 2017, having studied the existing developments, the ground forces formulated an industry request for an unmanned transport platform. Soon, 10 platform prototypes from eight manufacturers were brought to Fort Benning, Georgia, and began testing. As a result, four suppliers remained in the competition: GDLS, Polaris Industries, HDT Global and Textron Systems.

The selected four prototypes have been undergoing a second seven-month testing phase since January 2019. They were driven over rough terrain of varying difficulty, in urban conditions, among the ruins and in all weather conditions. Each of the contractors provided the 10th mountain and 101st airborne divisions with 20 platforms each.

As a result, army ranks inclined their choice in favor of General Dynamics' S-MET multi-purpose tactical transport. The company has already moved glasses for a good deal. It looked like a $162 million contract to supply 624 units of S-MET by 2021 was already in the pocket, but then a lengthy litigation ensued.

Textron Corporation challenged the results of the competition in court, accusing General Dynamics of promptly making changes to the design of the transporter after receiving their comments from army testers. Under the terms of the competition, this was not allowed.

Be that as it may, the Army had to cancel the results of the truck competition and resume testing. In the end, the contract went to General Dynamics anyway, which is quite natural. The military will not publicly admit to inadequate refereeing or, even worse, to the special motivation of their previous choice, although there were all sorts of rumors.

S-MET from General Dynamics is an eight-wheeled robotic vehicle that will be at the disposal of the squad at the front line and in the camp at all times. The platform is controlled remotely, with one hand, so that the operator can also conduct combat operations. For this, the control panel is extremely simplified. The transporter is also able to work autonomously - in the “follow me” mode or along a pre-planned route.

The carrying capacity of the S-MET is 454 kilograms. Approximately this is the weight of all the equipment of a squad of nine people and an additional arsenal, water, food. A stretcher for wounded soldiers can also be attached to the platform. And if you install a remote-controlled gun module or a rocket launcher, or a launch system for unmanned aerial systems, then the transporter easily turns into a mobile strike system or reconnaissance.

The robot is extremely maneuverable and moves very quietly. The hybrid-electric propulsion system can operate continuously for 72 hours and travel one hundred kilometers. In this case, the platform can also be used as a mobile power generator. In stationary mode, in the camp, it generates three kilowatts of electricity, and in motion - one kilowatt. This is enough to recharge any equipment: walkie-talkies, night vision goggles, tablets, batteries.

By purchasing these vehicles, the American army solves several problems: unloads military personnel, who now, not burdened with extra equipment, will be able to move more freely and faster across the battlefield; increases the amount of ammunition and single-use weapons available to squad members, and the wounded do not have to wait for evacuation. The acute front-line problem of the "socket" is also being solved.

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