Armed/Weaponized Infantry Robots for Urban Warfare and Counterinsurgency Ops by David Crane
by David Crane
by David Crane
DefenseReview recently attended the 24th Army Science Conference, in sunny Orlando, FL. The conference was held at the truly spectacular JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes (where we stayed, thanks to the U.S. Army). The conference itself was pretty terrific, as well.
O.k., I’m going to discuss a number of very interesting military/military-applicable technologies I observed inside the ASC 2004 exhibition hall in some upcoming DefenseReview articles over the next few weeks. However, this particular story will concentrate on Foster-Miller’s line of remote-controlled Armed/Weaponized Talon Robots, a.k.a. Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System (SWORDS) unmanned ground vehicle (UGV)/mobile robotic reconnaissance/weapons platform.
A member of Foster-Miller’s military robot product line, the Weaponized Talon Robot/SWORDS was one of the most interesting and seemingly viable technologies DefenseReview got to view at ASC 2004 (Army Science Conference 2004).
The SWORDS combat bot was developed specifically for infantry combat in urban warfare environments, and represents a natural evolution of their…
Ferret tracked mobile robot, which has been used over the last few years by DoD and law enforcement agencies for the purpose of surveillance and materials handling. If an unmanned/robotic technology is developed for military application, it’s not long before the question is asked, "Can we stick a gun on it?". In this case, the answer was a resounding "Yes".
The primary purpose of the Armed/Weaponized Talon Robot/SWORDS would seem to be to significantly mitigate the risk of serious injury and/or death to our infantry combat forces on the ground, primarily in urban warfare environments. It’s no secret that the U.S. Army is currently embroiled in a difficult public relations (PR) war against the U.S. media. Every soldier killed in combat OCONUS (Outside the Continental United States) creates more difficulty for the Bush Administration and U.S. Armed Forces. Robots can’t be killed. So, why use human warfighters, when you can conduct reconaissance operations and kill the enemy with remote-controlled, (unmanned) mobile robotic weapons platforms/systems? Basically, why put a human in harm’s way, when you can put a robot on it?
The logic and impetus behind the development of SWORDS is thus the same as that behind the development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s)/Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle’s (UCAV’s). Since our infantry is still embroiled in heavy urban warfare and counterinsurgency operations in Iraq, and the media shows no signs of downplaying combat casualties, the need for SWORDS UGVs is currently greater than ever. The U.S. Army’s Stryker Brigade is in luck, because they’re going to receive 18 of them in Iraq, very soon.
When I spoke with Arnis Mangolds, vice president of Foster-Miller, he informed me that the Weaponized Talon Robot/SWORDS can be equipped with an FN M249 Series LMG/SAW (including the MK46 MOD 0 version) and 320 rounds of 5.56x45mm ammunition, or an FN M240 Series GPMG (including the M240B and M240G) and 200 rounds of 7.62x51mm ammo. It can also be outfitted with a Barrett M82A1 or M107 .50 Cal (.50 BMG) anti-materiel rifle (or, we presume, a Barrett XM109 25mm Payload Rifle), six 40mm grenades, or an M202A1 Flame Assault Shoulder Weapon (FLASH) multi-shot rocket launcher (which carries four 66mm rockets). DefRev believes the six 40mm grenades utilize M203 launch tubes, but DefRev doesn’t see why a Milkor MGL Mk-1S multiple grenade launcher (or even two Milkor MGL-Mk-1S weapons mounted side-by-side) couldn’t be used, instead.
Actually, the first thing that I thought of when I saw the Weaponized Talon Robot/SWORDS was that it would seem to be a perfect platform for the DREAD Weapon System/Multiple Projectile Delivery System (MPDS), a revolutionary centrifugal ballistic system currently being developed by Leader Propulsion Systems. The DREAD Weapon System/MPDS represents "tranformational" technology, and is currently being looked at very closely by several (very) large military defense contractors. It would seem logical that the Foster-Miller Armed/Weaponized Talon Robot/Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System (SWORDS) can also be equipped with various kinds of Light Anti-Tank Weapons (LAW’s), like the M136 AT4 anti-armor weapon, M141 Bunker Defeat Munition (BDM), Talley Defense Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon (SMAW) series, or the Talley Defense product-improved M72, M72 NE and M72 HH thermobaric weapons with enhanced blast explosive, currently being manufactured by Talley Defense.
According to Mr. Mangolds, SWORDS’ weapons mount/turret is a major portion of the mobile robotic reconnaissance/weapons platform’s $230,000 per-unit cost. The weapons mount is actually a specialized version of the Telepresent Rapid Aiming Platform (TRAP), manufactured by Precision Remotes, Inc (PRI), of Richmond, California. Mangolds also said that Foster-Miller is going to try to get the per-unit cost of the SWORDS to the $150,000-$180,000 range.
Mr. Mangolds informed DefenseReview that the overall weight for an FN M249 LMG/SAW-equipped Weaponized Talon Robot/Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System (SWORDS) is 180 lbs. This includes the 320-round on-board 5.56x45mm ammo supply. We forgot to ask about the OA weight specs for a FN M240B or M240G-equipped SWORDS.
In open terrain, the SWORDS can be remotely operated by a single warfighter at a distance of several thousand feet. In an urban environment, the remote operating distance decreases.
You can contact Arnis Mangolds, Vice President of Foster-Miller, by phone at 781-684-4379, or via email at [email protected].
Doug Thomson, Foster-Miller’s Manager of Business Development, can be contacted by phone at 781-684-4379, or via email at [email protected].
Click here to read a page that includes info on some of the features and specs of Foster-Miller’s Talon Robots, from the Foster-Miller website.
Click here to read a PDF document on the Weaponized Talon Robots/Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System (SWORDS).
Click here to read another PDF document on the Foster-Miller Talon Robot.
Click here to read an Army News Service (ARNews) article on the Foster-Miller Weaponized Talon Robots/Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System (SWORDS), written by Sgt. Lorie Jewell. The article is titled "Armed robots soon marching to battle?".
Click here to view a digital pic of the Weaponized Talon Robot/Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System (SWORDS), taken by Sgt. Lorie Jewell of the Army News Service (ARNews).
Click here to view another pic of the SWORDS by Sgt. Lorie Jewell.
Click here to view a larger version pic of the Weaponized Talon Robot/Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System’s (SWORDS) soldier-operated remote-control console (to the left).
Click here to view a blog titled A Talon robot engineer/grunt", at "Airborne Combat Engineer". The blog contains an excellent 3/4 view of of the Foster-Miller Weaponized Talon Robot/SWORDS and companion remote-control console.
Click on this link to visit the Army-Technology.com page on Foster-Miller’s line of Talon Robots, including the Armed/Weaponized Talon Robot/Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System (SWORDS) infantry combat/urban warfare mobile robotic reconnaissance/weapons platform.
Click here to visit a Strategypage.com page on the Foster Miller Talon Robot.
Click on this link to read a "National Defense" Magazine article on the exposive ordnance disposal version of the Foster-Miller Talon Robot, titled "Explosive Ordnance Disposal Robots Outfitted With Weapons".
Click here to view a large digital pic of the Foster-Miller Ferret Talon Robot.
Click here to read DefenseReview’s article on the revolutionary DREAD Weapon System/Multiple Projectile Delivery System (MPDS), titled DREAD Weapon System: Devastating, Jam-Proof, and Silent.