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Faced with low recruitment and an increased demand for soldiers, the US Department of Defense has been trying to enhance its combat robots power while also increasing the military’s firepower and force in combat. Now that ground robots are undergoing testing alongside human soldiers, the US Army’s vision of autonomous systems army is set to become the new reality.
A recent live-fire exercise using a remote-controlled ground combat vehicle complete with a fully automated machine gun marked the first time that the US Army has used a ground robot providing fire in tandem with human troops in a military exercise.
This demonstrated the Pentagon’s relatively quiet conversion of the Armed Forces to a machine-majority force. The Pentagon has been investing heavily — for decades — in a cadre of military robots aimed at dominating air, sea, and land. Its research wing DARPA — Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — has been spending much of its roughly $3 billion annual budget funding robotic research intended for use in military applications.
According to former U.K. intelligence officer John Bassett, DARPA’s investments in robotics and automated weapons will not only quickly become the norm in the U.S. military, they will soon replace humans, who are set to become a minority in the U.S. military in a matter of years. Basset warned that the U.S. Army will have “more combat robots than human soldiers by 2025”.
The mechanization revolution in the military, however, isn’t set to stop there. According to the Army’s official Robotic and Autonomous Systems (RAS) strategy, the Army plans to have autonomous “self-aware” systems “fully integrated into the force” between 2031 and 2040 along with the complete automation of logistics.
The strategy also states that, by that time, the Army will have a cadre of robots at its service including “swarm robots” that will be “fully powered, self-unpacking and ready for immediate service,” along with advanced artificial intelligence designed to “increase combat effectiveness,” particularly in urban combat zones.
According to mintpressnews.com, DARPA has also been working on developing so-called “killer robots” — i.e., robot infantry set to replace human soldiers. Many of these robots have been developed by the Massachusetts-based and DARPA-funded company Boston Dynamics.
One of those robots, dubbed “Atlas,” is capable of jumping and backflips, carrying heavy loads, navigating uneven terrain, resisting attacks from a group of humans and even breaking through walls. Another Boston Dynamics robot, called “WildCat” can run at sustained speeds of nearly 20 miles per hour. By comparison, a gifted human runner can briefly sprint at about 16 miles per hour.
Armed with a budget of over $700 billion for the coming year, the Pentagon’s dystopian vision for the future of the military is quickly becoming a question not of if but when. The unintended consequences of manufacturing a self-policing army of self-aware killing machines – without human emotion, experience, or conscience – could quickly become devastating.