US Army debuts armed ground robot in Iraq
The US Army recently debuted the first armed unmanned ground system (UGS) in Iraq, marking a new milestone for unmanned systems.
The Special Weapons Observation Remote reconnaissance Direct action System (SWORDS) is a version of the Foster Miller 3B robot that is outfitted with the Telepresent Rapid Aiming Platform (TRAP) remotely operated weapon station made by Precision Remotes. SWORDS can carry a 5.56 mm M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, a 7.62 mm M240 machine gun or an M109 Barrett .50-calibre sniper rifle.
Three SWORDS are currently deployed with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, in Iraq. According to Tim Everhard, business development executive with Foster Miller, the SWORDS is the "first safety-certified armed ground robot" deployed with a military unit.
While it may be a very long time before robots replace 'boots on the ground', Everhard described the deployment as "a significant emotional event ... for the army and for the military in general".
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have spurred a number of developments in unmanned ground vehicles, which are now used for a variety of missions such as explosive ordnance disposal and reconnaissance. But SWORDS marks the first time robots might potentially be employed in a classic infantry role.