The US Army is planning to mount machine guns on its robot dogs and give them some AI capabilities.
The news has been released by Bhavanjot Singh, a senior scientific technical manager at the US Army's Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), during a reception with lawmakers in Washington, as reported by US media. Singh mentioned specifically the potential to arm the new and well-known Ghost Robotics-manufactured VISION 60 Quadruped Unmanned Ground Vehicle (Q-UGV) with the Army's Next Generation Squad Weapon rifle. The idea is to send these dogs with an LMG mounted to their backs, which they can then fire at will, into areas with heavy gunfire or in complex and high-risk terrain, such as the urban one, leveraging on the robot dog's ability to traverse different types of terrain. They will be able to act where the wheeled vehicles may not be able to go. An operator will remotely help the dog navigate and designate targets, with the possibility for the AI dog to choose when to engage them. In accordance with some American media, the US Army has already experimented with mounting an M4A1 carbine on a Q-UGV but testing the new 6.8mm Sig Sauer XM-7 rifle and the XM-250 on the robot may be a significant game changer in the internal organization of an Army squad. It could be also a perfect solution for addressing some soldier concerns that the XM rifles are too large and heavy to function effectively as a standard dismounted infantry rifle. Robot dogs have become increasingly common support across the military of some countries, performing functions like enhancing perimeter security at various installations, augmenting intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) capabilities, and even carrying out some explosive ordnance disposal tasks. Despite DEVCOM has cautioned public opinion that the development of a prototype doesn't indicate the weaponized robot dogs will be deployed downrange, some robotics companies already released a letter in the past, calling on global militaries to abstain from weaponizing their technology. Regardless of the ethical discussions, the robot companies are worried about the reaction of the public on seeing weaponized applications of their robots which could harm the trust in the technology in ways that damage the tremendous benefits they will bring to society. Despite these concerns, the experimentation continues across the globe: last year, a viral video from Chinese defense contractor Kestrel Defense showed an unmanned aerial vehicle airdropping a robot dog armed with a Chinese 5.8x42mm QBB-97 light machine gun onto a rooftop during an exercise.