Many armies, and police forces, have long used unmanned ground vehicles to conduct hazardous explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) missions, but did not require the robot to be fast or particularly robust. This is soon to change as a new generation of fast, agile robots will be entrusted with a range of demanding missions such as surveillance, reconnaissance, attack and logistics support.
Whereas the EOD robot is typically deployed as close to the threat device as safety permits and is directly controlled by an operator the true military robot will have a certain degree of automation and will take the war to the enemy.
The US Army's ambitious, multibillion dollar Future Combat Systems (FCS) project includes manned ground vehicles, unmanned air vehicles and large, medium and small unmanned ground vehicles (UGV). In September 2003 United Defense Ground Systems was selected by the FCS integrator team of Boeing and Science Applications International (SAIC) for the Phase 1 engineering study effort to design and develop the Armed Robotic Vehicle, the largest of the FCS robots. There will be two variants: the ARV-RSTA (also abbreviated as ARV-R) that will perform reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition (RSTA) missions, and the ARV-Assault (ARV-A) variant that will undertake direct and indirect fire missions under remote control in support of mounted and dismounted operations. The contract included a Phase 2 option to enter into Systems Development and Demonstration. Work on the latter phase will be performed at the company's facility in Santa Clara, California.
The ARVs will share a common 6 x 6 chassis powered by a four-cycle, six-cylinder diesel engine developing 217 hp. An electric drive hybrid motor can be fitted as an alternative. The ARV will be capable of accelerating from 0 to 48 kph in ten seconds, achieve a top road speed of 90 kph and have a range exceeding 400 km. On the vehicles a similar turret capable of traversing 180 degrees will be mounted. The target weight of 8.5 tonnes will enable two vehicles to be carried by a C-130 Hercules tactical transport aircraft or one inside a CH-47 medium transport helicopter. The vehicles will be constructed of titanium and protected by ceramic armour.
It is intended that the ARV will operate ahead of manned FCS vehicles, such as the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Vehicle, which will act as control platforms. Dismounted troops will also be able to direct ARVs. According to an army statement the ARV-R will remotely provide reconnaissance capability in urban military operations and other battle-space, deploy sensors, direct fire weapons, and special munitions into buildings, bunkers, tunnels and other urban features, act as a communications relay and assess battle damage. The ARV-R will have a five-metre telescopic mast mounting an electro-optical/infrared/ laser sensor package, a multi-function Ka-band radar and a nuclear, biological and chemical warfare sensor. The ARV-R will be able to deploy unattended ground sensors from a launcher mounted on the turret roof. The vehicle will be armed with the XM307 25 mm Advanced Crew Served Weapon being developed by...