The Global Race for Armed Robots

U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 2nd Class Erik Gill, assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 6, prepares a robot designed to remotely handle ordnance material during a training exercise March 26, 2013, at Naval Support Activity Bahrain in Bahrain. EODMU-6 deployed with Commander Task Group 56.1, providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jamar X. Perry/Released)

This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)

A new project by the US Army seeks out robots that would do the fighting for the fighters in the field. The project entails 3,000 backpack-sized robots which can defuse bombs and explore enemy positions, with an estimated budget of half a billion dollars.The project sparked a competition on a global scale between different companies and manufacturers.
The immediate plans of the Army alone visualize a new fleet of 5,000 ground robots of varying sizes and levels of autonomy. The Marines, Navy and Air Force are making similar investments, according to
“My personal estimate is that robots will play a significant role in combat inside of a decade or a decade and a half,” the chief of the Army, Gen. Mark Milley, said.
Milley advised that adversaries like China and Russia “are investing heavily and very quickly” in the use of aerial, sea and ground robots.
A rivalry between Israeli firm Roboteam and Massachusetts-based Endeavor Robotics took place over a chain of major contracts to build the Army’s next generation of ground robots.
The biggest contract whose worth is $429 million — calls for mass production of 25-pound robots which are light, easily moveable and can be “carried by infantry for long distances without taxing the soldier”.
Roboteam CEO Elad Levy rejected to give the statement on the dispute but said the firm is still “working very closely with U.S. forces.”
The Defense Department is careful about developing machines for the battlefield that make their own decisions. That keeps the US aside from endeavors by China and Russia to design artificially intelligent war-fighting armory.
In a report from the Congressional Research Service, in spite of the Pentagon’s “insistence” that a human must always be in the loop, the military could soon feel required to develop fully autonomous systems if rivals do the same. Or, as with drones, humans will still pull the trigger.