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Subject: What about robotic infantry?
Treadgar    11/27/2006 10:03:54 AM
In the early 90s I used to play this game called F-19 Stealth Fighter. You flew missions in the Middle East and Russia. As I flew my simulated fighter I imagined my control inputs were being beamed to an unmanned fighter that was flying half a world away. Because my computer was very slow the game play was choppy. My imagination said this was an artifact of jamming or some type of enemy action along those lines. In the real world we see this happening with the predator. There are predators that are now armed. It seems to me this trend will continue. The question is, how far does anyone who reads this think it will go? Will there be robotic infantry, soon, or is that a hundred years in the future? Here are some more questions: 1. If humans control these robotic soldiers remotely, how would such a force be organized? 2. If the ability to jam transmissions is a function of distance do you think it would be best to have controllers near the FEBA to exert localized control? 3. What degree of autonomy would such units have? 4. What might robotic infantry look like? Would you have anthropomorphic designs or something else? 5. Does anyone think a science fiction novel with this kind of setup would be interesting? Treadgar
 
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Treadgar       12/29/2006 9:43:46 AM
I remember the Bolo well. I first read it in Analog (long time ago, don't even know if the mag exists anymore). Then there was a book with all the Bolo stories on it. There was even a Bolo game, which I played for a while. One thing I was never sure about: what exactly was an infinite repeater? Beam weapon?

Treadgar
 
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Treadgar       12/29/2006 9:53:36 AM
"A unit I think could be highly effective is an anti-mortar defense system.  Simple radar unit connected with maybe a larger base unit for overwatch and triangulation detects incoming mortar shells (which given their parabolic path should be relatively easy to intercept) and then rips off some shells to detonate or at least disrupt the shells flight path (a feat no human could likely accomplish)."

Probably a not too distant step. Hopefully they won't connect it to skynet! It's a good idea, you could protect your HQ with something like this. Active defense seems to look better than the more passive way of building bunkers. Bunkers seem to be really vulnerable now. Can you imagine one of those big block house bunkers on Normandy beach lasting very long in today's combat environment? I've always thought you could have controlers down in the bunker, kind of like they controled the robots in the old movie West World. I also imagined bunkers like those seen in the Iron Triangle in Vietnam, but those were really complex tunnel networks hooked up to bunkers. That might be good for defense, but what about offense?


Treadgar
 
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Softwar       12/29/2006 10:28:17 AM

"A unit I think could be highly effective is an anti-mortar defense system.  Simple radar unit connected with maybe a larger base unit for overwatch and triangulation detects incoming mortar shells (which given their parabolic path should be relatively easy to intercept) and then rips off some shells to detonate or at least disrupt the shells flight path (a feat no human could likely accomplish)."

Probably a not too distant step. Hopefully they won't connect it to skynet! It's a good idea, you could protect your HQ with something like this. Active defense seems to look better than the more passive way of building bunkers. Bunkers seem to be really vulnerable now. Can you imagine one of those big block house bunkers on Normandy beach lasting very long in today's combat environment? I've always thought you could have controlers down in the bunker, kind of like they controled the robots in the old movie West World. I also imagined bunkers like those seen in the Iron Triangle in Vietnam, but those were really complex tunnel networks hooked up to bunkers. That might be good for defense, but what about offense?


Treadgar

Take a close look at "SKY Guard" by Grumman - an improved THEL laser system proposed for Israel to take care of incoming rockets.  The US Navy Phalanx also has the capability to do much the same thing - it even has a "dead-man" mode where it will continue to fire until it runs out of ammo or is stopped by a human.  A mobile ground based version of Phalanx was proposed for the Iraqi Green zone to kill incoming mortar attacks.  The only problem with Phalanx was the 20 mm shells that miss will fall on civilians living nearby.  Thus, the interest in Sky Guard with a laser to do the dirty work.
In short, we already have some robots that defend - Phalanx being one - with no human intervention.  Killing a 5 inch shell or an incoming SS-N-22 requires speed that no human can match.  The trick now is to improve their software and make them mobile.
 
As for the AI - my point about BOLO is in part a ref. to a computer being able to understand "maybe" or in the Bolo's case - understand personal sacrifice for "the honor of the regiment".  I don't see a CAV, Tomahawk or Phalanx coming anywhere near that kind of understanding even in the distant future.
 
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Treadgar       12/29/2006 11:26:04 AM
Hey Softwar, how powerful are these lasers? If you fire at an incoming mortar shell does it completely vaporize the shell?

Treadgar
 
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Softwar       12/29/2006 11:49:23 AM

Hey Softwar, how powerful are these lasers? If you fire at an incoming mortar shell does it completely vaporize the shell?

Treadgar
Try this video - an early version of the same laser being tested at White Sands NM - it shoots down three mortar rounds in the air all at the same time.  It does appear that the rounds are cooked off by the laser (detonated by thermal stress).
 
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Treadgar       12/29/2006 1:19:56 PM
 
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Jeff_F_F       12/29/2006 9:32:15 PM
Asside from relatively well defined missions like counterbattery or missile defense, killing things is very AI intensive. However a robot need not kill things to be useful. Witness the mule systems that are being developed. Simply carrying a infantry soldiers gear means that they can move faster, be more effective, carry more ammunition, radios, electronics, devote more of the infantry soldier's load-carrying ability to armor, weaponry, and personal electronics etc. And this is foar a system that can be fairly dumb.
 
At a higher step in sophistication, dedicated sensor drones can help extend the capability of a force. This is especially useful in battling an insurgency, where enemy combat forces can be consistently defeated if forced to fight, but prefer to stay hidden and use guerilla tactics. An example in faction is the spider robots from Minority Report. How much would such a system increase the effectiveness of an infantry team? With fairly simple AI, you could have drones that hover in an area and watch for sounds like gunfire, shouting, screams, etc. The drone could do some basic signal processing ahead of time, and then refer signals that are suspicious to a human operator for confirmation. More advanced drones could be vectored to the location or infantry could be sent to intervene. Even if troops were unable to respond in time, drones could be used to track attackers back to their bases.
 
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Treadgar       1/1/2007 7:56:36 AM
Jeff, I agree with all your points. These are a start. For an idea of what will be I like to think of how the aircraft became more involved in combat over time. It starts out as a recon platform. Soon people start putting bombs on them. Then to stop the guys with bombs, and the sky snoops, you put on some guns. It turns into a race. Who knows where we'll be thirty years from now? We might be surprised how fast things change. One question is: how will this change how wars are fought? Does anyone think we will be more likely to wage war as robots take on more of the load?

Treadgar
 
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flamingknives       1/1/2007 9:31:30 AM
One of Joe Haldeman's novels, "Forever Peace" dealt with robotic 'infantry'.

In the real world the problem boils down to bandwidth. There is a limit to the number of frequencies available and most are already used for civilian or other military purposes. The frequency limit restricts the amount of data that can be transmitted and as the available frequencies become more congested, the more effective jamming becomes. This problem can be mitigated by placing the transmitter closer to the action, but then you've got to make your transmitter location secure from attack.
 
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Treadgar       1/1/2007 7:06:48 PM
Flamming Knives, bandwidth is a problem. I envision human "riders, people that control/oversee the robots from a distance, or near the combat zone in relative safety. The robots take point, or something like that. I imagine there are different levels of control, and bandwidth would limit that. I always think about this playing first person shooter games. Usually resolution is bad, I have problems with depth perception in that environment.In fact I miss all my other senses. So I  think wouldn't it be great if you could become temporarily submerged in the robots sensorium, almost like you are the robot.That's where bandwidth really becomes a problem. How would you quickly transmit that kind of information, and do it swiftly enough so you can make split second decisions? I can't think of how to do it.I also agree with you that you'll need to have a nearby transmitter, and it's protection is vital. Like in infantry units that have a radio trooper with them, maybe you could have a robot that carries the transmitter, and this robot stays near a unit commander, maybe even at the squad level.
 
Treadgar
 
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