US Marines Successfully Used RPG-Equipped ‘Robotic Goats’

US Marines Successfully Used RPG-Equipped ‘Robotic Goats’

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On September 9th, the US Marines successfully rigged a rocket-propelled grenade launcher (RPG) to a “robotic goat” to test the viability of such a setup, as part of a larger suit of autonomous system tests.

According to Interesting Engineering, the robot that had the rocket launcher affixed to it was the Chinese-made “Unitree Go1,” which is commercially available and relatively cheap. The robot is usually referred to as a “robotic dog,” but at this time was called a “robotic goat” for unclear reasons.

The M72 Light Anti-tank Weapon (or LAW) has long been in service with the US forces. The weapon is light (weighing only 2.5 kg), inexpensive enough to discard after firing, and extremely easy to use. The launcher’s rockets have a maximum range of roughly 1km but are most effective when fired at a distance of 198 meters.

The M72 launcher was explicitly designed for use in urban combat, where density and obstructions are common, and due to its simplicity, disposability, and ability to fire at close range, it was deemed an ideal weapon to test on a remotely operated robot like the “Unitree Go1.”

“Instead of having a Marine handle the weapon system, manipulate the safeties, we could put a remote trigger mechanism on it that allowed it to all be done remotely,” explained Aaron Safadi, an officer of the Tactical Training and Exercise Control group, and added- “The Marine could be behind cover and concealment, the weapon system could go forward, and the Marine could manipulate the safeties from a safe place while allowing that weapon system to get closer to its target.”

During operation, the “robot goat” can be controlled using a video-game-like controller, a setup with which the robot can scout ahead using its camera “eyes” to assess the situation. Once the robot is in position, its rocket can be fired using the controller, and if the robot survives the encounter, it can loiter to confirm a kill before either moving on or returning to base to be rearmed.

Such capabilities could prove invaluable for armed forces worldwide to reduce the risk of human loss when going up against heavily armed targets like tanks, while also providing some interesting tactical options for urban warfare.