The recent Association of the United States Army (AUSA) conference showcased a number of armed robots and similar technologies.
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At the conference, one of the companies that caught the eye was Germany’s Rheinmetall, which launched its hybrid-electric drivetrain vehicle, the Mission Master-CXT. The model is a medium-sized unmanned vehicle that can move weapons – and autonomously identify targets and launch strikes.
Here is what Alain Tremblay, vice president of business development and innovation, said in a press release published by Defense One:
“The restriction on the weapon system is a customer decision, not what we provide. If a customer says, ‘I’m comfortable with a rule of engagement, a law of armed conflict, and the Geneva Convention [angle]for this thing to find a target and engage a target – it can do that.”
It should come as no surprise that the conference shed light on weaponized robot technology, as it has become a topic of interest for the military. In its fiscal year 2023, the U.S. military is researching a robotic combat vehicle and will invest more than $750 million over the next five years in researching specific robotic developments.
In late 2021, the military conducted a live-fire test using the Robotic Combat Vehicle-Medium (RCV-M) for the first time, with the unmanned, wireless weapon station firing the main gun and the M240 machine gun.
Even if fully autonomous armed robots aren’t hitting the battlefield soon, there’s room for human operators and these cutting-edge robots to work together.
The idea of robots on the battlefield – autonomous or armed robots – capable of identifying and engaging targets raises obvious concerns. US military officials want to acquire their own solutions, especially with China advancing its own development of robotic combat weapons.
Earlier this month, a consortium of leading robotics companies released an open letter pledging that their general-purpose robots will not be weaponized. Boston Dynamics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics and Unitree are committed to doing their best to ensure that their customers do not intend to weaponize acquired technology.