January 22, 2014
Army Could Be Replacing Some Soldiers With Robots
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The US Army is considering cutting down a brigade by 25 percent and replacing those soldiers with robots. General Robert Cone, head of the US Army's Training and Doctrine Command, spoke at the Army Aviation Symposium last week about how the Army is considering cutting the size of a brigade from 4,000 to 3,000 solders. Part of this cut is due to financial restraints, but it is also an attempt to move into a new age in which robots help save lives by keeping soldiers off the battlefield.
“Don’t you think 3,000 people is probably enough probably to get by?” Gen. Cone said to the audience last week. “When you see the success, frankly, that the US Navy has had in terms of lowering the numbers of people on ships, are there functions in the brigade that we could automate—robots or manned/unmanned teaming—and lower the number of people that are involved given the fact that people are our major cost?”
Reports have already shown that the Army is on path to shrink from 540,000 soldiers to 540,000 by the end of 2014, and some expect this number to shrink to as low as 420,000. Cone told the audience that his staff is putting together an advisory panel to look at how feasible it is to cut back on this man-power.
"I've got clear guidance to think about what if you could robotically perform some of the tasks in terms of maneuverability, in terms of the future of the force,” Gen. Cone told the audience.
Huw Williams, an expert on military robots and unmanned vehicles at the defense publication IHS Jane’s, said that armies are already focusing on investigating robot vehicles for transport. He said that you could have a lead manned vehicle, followed behind by several unmanned vehicles.
If a war with robot soldiers doesn’t come to fruition, the US Army has other plans that involve turning soldiers into Iron Man. A report emerged in October last year that said the US Army is planning to develop a type of smart body armor known as a Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS).
This suit would use wireless networking and on-board computing to give operators improved situational awareness of the environment around them. TALOS would also incorporate armor made from smart materials embedded with sensors, and it would be powered with a hydraulic system to enhance the soldier’s physical capabilities.
Lt Col Karl Borjes of the US Army’s research, development and engineering command (RDECOM) said TALOS would be equipped with a weapon system and communication equipment as well.