The modern solider is overburdened, so defense researchers have been trying to invent new ways to lighten the load, such as wearable exoskeletons that shoulder some of the weight. Now, here comes the latest possible solution, a tracked robot designed to operate with Army ground forces, carrying important, heavy gear.
The Grizzly, developed by Textron Systems, could carry extra small arms ammunition, anti-tank weapons, mines, medical equipment, and other gear. Having a rugged robot carry this cargo could make ground forces more heavily armed but more agile on the battlefield.
Traditionally, infantry forces have been limited in the field to the equipment they can carry on their backs. In addition to their basic load of ammunition, food, medical and other supplies, soldiers needed to carry heavy equipment such as machine gun bullets, AT4 anti-tank rockets, and Javelin missile rounds on their own person. This often increased the load individual soldiers carried to one hundred or more pounds, dramatically limiting the mobility of soldiers who are otherwise athletic and in great shape.
The Army’s Army’s Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport program, or SMET, is meant to produce a robot that can carry 1,000 pounds of supplies for a nine-man infantry squad. That’s more than 100 pounds per soldier. SMET will required to travel up to 60 miles over 72 hours, provide up to a kilowatt of electrical power for radios and over devices, and be controlled via simple handheld controller by one soldier in the squad.
Grizzly is Textron’s entry into the SMET program. It was originally developed by Howe & Howe, designers of the Ripsaw Super Tank of TV fame, and then the mini-tank design company was acquired by Textron in October 2018. Grizzly appears to be based on Howe & Howe’s RS2-H1 drone, which has a range of 80 miles. The bot is powered by an electric drive diesel hybrid engine.
According to the Howe & Howe website, the RS2-H1 drone has already conducted a 60-mile march through swamps and jungle carrying a load of more than 1,000 pounds. The march was completed in 29 hours and four minutes at an average speed of two miles an hour--about the speed of a cautious foot patrol.
The Army says SMET bots could someday be modified to accomplish further tasks, such as act as communications relays, ferry wounded back to first aid posts, and conduct reconnaissance missions.
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