Twitter Facebook Google RSS
National Defense > Blog > Posts > 'Robot Army' in Afghanistan Surges Past 2,000 Units
'Robot Army' in Afghanistan Surges Past 2,000 Units
There are now more than 2,000 ground robots operating in Afghanistan, and troops are demanding more.

Marine Corps Lt. Col. Dave Thompson, project manager for the joint project office for robotics systems, said there has been an insatiable demand for this technology. Robots for the most part have been used to detect improvised explosive devices, but their missions are growing, Thompson said
Feb. 1 at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International program review, in Washington, D.C.

“Robots are not just for explosive ordnance disposal teams anymore,” he said.

Ground forces are finding new applications for small robots that can be carried by dismounted troops. “They are using them in ways we never expected,” he said. One-third of the approximately 1,400 robots sent to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010 did not go to EOD teams, he said. Troops use the cameras for reconnaissance and surveillance. Military police are also finding utility for the robots, he added.

Many of the tactics being employed are classified. One popular application has been for entry control points, said Thompson. The robots are being sent out in front of checkpoints where they can look underneath or inside vehicles for bombs before the cars or trucks get too close, he said.

There are five primary robots being employed: a 35-pound mini-EOD robot that can be carried in a backpack; medium-sized Talon and Packbots that weigh about 65 pounds; a 120-pound Talon that is popular with EOD units because of its strong arm and manipulator; and a vehicle-sized M160, which can remotely clear minefields.
The M160 comes equipped with a roller in front of the vehicle that has flails and hammers. They churn the soil eight inches deep to destroy or intentionally detonate mines. Some of the minefields in Afghanistan are leftover from the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, he said. These robots are designed to absorb multiple explosions as they clear the field. Despite the beating they take, they have a 90 percent reliability rate, he said.

This robot, too, is being used for missions outside of its original intent. Thompson showed one video of an M160 being sent out in front of a convoy. An operator in a Husky mine-protected vehicle driving through the narrow street of an Afghan village guided the robot about 30 yards in front of the lead vehicle. The video showed a powerful roadside bomb destroying the M160. That would have otherwise been the Husky and its occupants. Thompson said he doesn’t mind having to repair extensively damaged robots such as the M160. “Every robot returned to us with battle damage is a life saved,” he said.


There are no comments yet for this post.
Items on this list require content approval. Your submission will not appear in public views until approved by someone with proper rights. More information on content approval.

Name: *

eMail *

Comment *



Name: *

eMail *

Comment *


Please enter the text displayed in the image.
The picture contains 6 characters.

Characters *


Legal Notice *

NDIA is not responsible for screening, policing, editing, or monitoring your or another user's postings and encourages all of its users to use reasonable discretion and caution in evaluating or reviewing any posting. Moreover, and except as provided below with respect to NDIA's right and ability to delete or remove a posting (or any part thereof), NDIA does not endorse, oppose, or edit any opinion or information provided by you or another user and does not make any representation with respect to, nor does it endorse the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement, or other material displayed, uploaded, or distributed by you or any other user. Nevertheless, NDIA reserves the right to delete or take other action with respect to postings (or parts thereof) that NDIA believes in good faith violate this Legal Notice and/or are potentially harmful or unlawful. If you violate this Legal Notice, NDIA may, in its sole discretion, delete the unacceptable content from your posting, remove or delete the posting in its entirety, issue you a warning, and/or terminate your use of the NDIA site. Moreover, it is a policy of NDIA to take appropriate actions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and other applicable intellectual property laws. If you become aware of postings that violate these rules regarding acceptable behavior or content, you may contact NDIA at 703.522.1820.



Bookmark and Share