The Army Wants to Use M-2 Bradleys to Command Drones

David Axe

Key point: The Pentagon wants specialized vehicles to serve as mobile robot command centers.

U.S. Army soldiers riding in a specially-modified M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle will control a platoon of ground robots during an upcoming exercise in Colorado.

The planned 2020 test “moves beyond the basic ‘robotic wingman’ pursuits that have so far led how the mechanized community of the Army is getting at using semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles,” Army Times reporter Todd South explained.

Army officials intend for the month-long exercise at Fort Carson to gather data for the service’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center. The soldiers in the exercise will operate the unmanned ground vehicles from inside upgraded Bradleys that the Army refers to as “Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrators.”

The upgrades include a remotely-operated turret for the vehicle’s 25-millimeter gun, extra sensors for 360-degree awareness and new crew stations with touchscreens, according to an Army release.

The Colorado war game will involve two of the special Bradley controlling a total of four UGVs, South reported.

The U.S., British and Russian militaries, among others, quickly are moving to integrate armed robots into their ground forces.

The U.S. Army has begun shopping around for a robotic armored vehicle that can replace some of the branch's old M-2 Bradley manned fighting vehicles. The 2020 war game could inform those efforts.

This “Optionally-Manned Fighting Vehicle” could operate with or without a human crew, allowing commanders to deploy the vehicles on missions that are too risky for human beings.

Some initial testing took place as early as 2017. An armed, robotic M-113 tracked armored vehicle provided covering fire for soldiers during a summer 2017 war game in Michigan.

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