Iraq was the first war in which a large number of robots were used. At
its peak, in 2007, there were nearly 2,000 small robots in Iraq. Many were
damaged, although only 20 percent because of combat (gunfire, explosions), with
the rest of the damage was from operator error. Whatever the case, these busted
droids had to be fixed.
There small (under
100 pounds, and look like a miniature tank) droids were often a primary target
for the terrorists. The most common use of these robots is to check out objects
that might be roadside bombs. Terrorists will detonate their roadside bomb if
they see a robot going to check it out, and will fire on the droids as well.
But the robots are small, and rugged. They were hard to hit, or hurt. But
operators often misused them. The most common damage was caused by having the
mobile arm (that most robots have) pick up more weight than it was built for
(usually less than ten pounds).
come to rely on the droids for all sorts of things, and have adapted to the
terrorist attacks on the droids, by treating the robots like "one of the
team." Thus troops will provide covering fire for droids, as necessary,
and will not send the robots out on suicide missions unless it's really
important. They will also recover damaged droids, make battlefield repairs if
they can (some guys have developed reputations as "droid medics").
a droid hospital was established in Iraq
(known officially as the "Joint Robotic Repair and Fielding Activity").
This operation was soon repairing about 400 broken or "wounded"
droids a week. About that often, the staff there will have to deal with one or
more teary eyed troops, carrying the blasted remains of their droid, and
wanting to know if their little guy can be rebuilt. Many of these droids had
been given names, which were painted on the robot chassis.
it was realized that it would be cheaper to just put the damaged droids on
the air transports that brought in
supplies from Germany, and often flew back empty. A robot hospital was set up
at an American base in Germany, where mechanics could more inexpensively repair
the robots and fly them back to Iraq. The more badly damaged robots were sent to
Germany, because the repairmen there were more expert at fixing the droids.
This was because Germany was a non-combat area, where troops served for three
years, rather than one year in Iraq. The U.S. Army does not yet have a
specialty for droid repair, so vehicle, and other equipment, mechanics are
assigned to the task. They have to learn on the job, often with the help of
robot manufacturer engineers sent in to run short training courses. Most of the
droids come from half a dozen different manufacturers, and each model is a
little different. But with three years to devote to this kind of work, the
repair technicians become quite expert.