In an elaborate exercise at the Yakima Air Base in Washington, the US Army engaged robots to take on dangerous work in the battlefield. This was part of the Joint Warfighting Assessment (JWA) which moves the concept of multi-domain battle from paper to theatre to better understand how the service and its partners will fight together in the future.
Experts describe JWA as an annual exercise meant for experimentation of new and emerging concepts and capabilities. And this year, it’s the robots. “We never, ever want to send another soldier into a breach, so how do we do this completely autonomously?” General Mike Murray, the head of Army Futures Command, asked his team.
According to General Murray, technology isn’t the challenge, but rather figuring out the utility of robots and how they can be best used on the battlefield, and this means understanding the shortcomings and advantages of the technology. “Its not necessarily the hardware, its about the employment of robotics and the human-robotic interfaces that we have to look at.”
In this years JWA, the Army employed complexity to its breach exercises, added more layers to the evaluation, which including flying a Black Hawk that spits out two unmanned aircraft systems, called Air-Launched Effects, thousands of feet above enemy terrain to perform surveillance and reconnaissance.
The breach exercise at Yakima challenged a wide array of robots with an obstacle layered with minefields, wire and a deep trench. It included mounted and dismounted electronic warfare capabilities ti detect enemy locations and to deploy anti-tank rounds, and single multipurpose attack munitions.
General Murray said robotics is not the hard part. “The hard part is trying to figure out where it makes sense, how they interact, how they adapt, how soldiers do certain things now that they have the robotic capability.” He said there were a number of things to work through.