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Marathon Targets
Marathon Targets

Anti terror units may soon train to shoot under varied conditions using “Humanoid” targets.

Over the next three months, Australian company Marathon Targets will deliver its newest generation of smart targets to several militaries, including the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, the Australian Army and another NATO nation’s army.

Equipped with humanoid heads and torsos, the robots roll around like a four-wheeled Segway. Laser rangefinders allow them to sense their surroundings and move easily and autonomously around a live-fire range. They can navigate in and out of buildings, react with “intelligent” behavior to scatter or hide when shooting starts, and are designed to provide a realistic moving target for marksmen to engage.

According to Defense News the newest version of Marathon Targets’ T-40 4-Wheel Drive smart target offers several improvements over its older kin. It can accelerate and move faster than before, and its lower portion has shrunk — meaning the emphasis will be on the humanoid target rather than the armored mechanism carrying it. The time needed to recharge the battery has been reduced from eight hours to 2.5 hours, and it can operate at higher temperature ranges. Finally, replaceable external speakers allow it to “talk” or emit simulated gunshots.

Marathon Target
Marathon Target

Perhaps most importantly, the T-40 can now handle “very steep grades,” said Ralph Petroff, Marathon Targets’ managing director for North America.

This was a skill that previously left Marine Corps testers unsatisfied.

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“The Marathon targets used in the comparative test had two wheels and required a flat, level surface to operate,” said a subject matter expert from the Marine Corps. “This was not practical for use on Marine Corps ranges and a four-wheel Marathon target will be evaluated in the upcoming months. The capability to operate on existing Marine Corps ranges without modification to the infrastructure acknowledges the necessity for new capabilities to be affordable to field and sustain.”

The Marine Corps conducted a Foreign Comparative Test in July 2011 using funding from the Office of the Secretary of Defense in an attempt to find a “better live-fire moving target,” the expert said.

While the Marathon robots are just one available option, they have certain benefits — such as free movement (not along a defined path), autonomous behavior in response to being fired upon, and applicability for different training scenarios.