|Arthur Dominic Villasanta |||May 02, 2017 09:58 AM EDT|
(Photo : USMC) Robot warriors. V-Bat; Puma and Switchblade.
For the first time in its storied history, U.S. Marines stormed and conquered a beachhead without a single human soldier in the first wave. Robots went in first; humans, second.
A mock amphibious assault on an "enemy beach" at Camp Pendleton in California last week was spearheaded by an amazing variety of aerial, maritime and land robots all dedicated to the job of destroying the enemy in the first assault so humans won't have to, and in the process suffer appalling casualties.
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This new mode of robot warfare might become the standard playbook of the Marines in future wars in Asia against China.
Marine commanders have been searching for ways to make robots the first on the beach in tomorrow's battlefield.
"If the first thing ashore in the next conflict is a Marine, we will fail," said Brig. Gen. Julian Alford, Vice Chief Of Naval Research and Commanding Officer, Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, Futures Directorate, Combat Development and Integration.
"A machine needs to be in there."
Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, and Deputy Commandant, Combat Development and Integration, wants the U.S. to put more money and resources into developing and fielding combat robots. He's also concerned about the progress being made by both Russia and China in building robots.
"A lot of the high-end threats we see today, their governments are putting a lot of their own research and development money into these areas to perform differently on a modern battlefield," said Gen. Walsh.
"We see them moving in areas that we haven't looked at since the Cold War."
The invasion of "Red Beach" at Camp Pendleton represents the new warfare envisioned by the Marines.
Paving the way for the beach assault were aerial drones such as the V-Bat, a long-endurance VTOL drone that conducts battlefield surveillance and target acquisition. This unique UAV takes off like a helicopter but flies like an airplane.
Then there are the RQ-20 Puma battery powered, hand-launched drones that transmitted targeting information to AeroVironment Switchblade UAVs, which are loitering munitions (or kamikaze drones) designed to crash into its target with an explosive warhead to destroy it.
The land assault was led by a massive robot Amphibious Assault Vehicle that disgorged a MUTT or Multi Utility Tactical Transport armed with a .50 caliber machine gun.
MUTT is an unmanned vehicle controlled by as operator who drives it and fires its heavy or light machine gun. It can also be used to lug around heavy gear, or as a platform to launch aerial drones and quadcopters.
These machines quickly overran the beach, allowing flesh and blood Marines in the second wave to land without opposition.
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