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Robotic Combat Vehicles.

It was with great interest that I read the article, "Robotic Combat Vehicles: Army Setting Stage for New Unmanned Platforms" in the April issue of National Defense. I took special note of the quote by Maj. Cory Wallace: "Fundamentally a robot is supposed to do the three Ds--dumb, dirty and dangerous tasks."

I would like to focus on the middle task--the dirty ones--and how those can be accomplished without a crew. Let's take the task of recovering a vehicle that has gotten mired in a farmer's field in Germany. Who is it that was going to dismount and walk through knee deep muck to attach the recovery cable to a tree so the vehicle can self-recover?

And who exactly is going to conduct the preventive maintenance checks and services while the unit is on the move? This is normally done while the unit is on the move when the vehicle stops. Even if there are sensors to tell us if the oil is low someone has to open the grill, grab a five gallon can of oil and pour liberally. So just who is that soldier?

The subject was dirty jobs--is there any tanker or Bradley soldier out there that does not think breaking track is a dirty job? So who's doing that one because sooner or later it's going to throw a track to the inside or need one replaced.

The task of re-arming armored vehicles has always been something of a dirty job--certainly not as dirty as some but dirty enough--assuming there is no robot uncrating the ammo that another robot dropped on a pallet in the assembly area.

This has always been an all-hands requirement because there has not been materiel handling equipment designed to do this task. The artillery guys have a concept for auto loading from truck to turret but I don't think it happened and I don't think this is in the tank's or Bradley's future. But who knows?

I believe you see my point. For many years--in fact right up to the present--we have resisted the opportunity to add an autoloader to the main battle tank because it would deprive us of a fourth crew member to perform preventive maintenance on the move during short halts, as well as another set of arms, legs and brawn to drag the recovery cable or leverage the tankers bar or drive the end connector.

These things are important to an armored unit on the move and in garrison and while I am sure that robotics is the way of the future, I would counsel that many of the lessons learned from the past be considered as we move forward into this new and exciting age of robotic warfare.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Marc A. King

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Title Annotation:Readers' Forum
Author:King, Marc A.
Publication:National Defense
Date:May 1, 2020
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