US Army details its 2020 plan to test robotic combat vehicles

The United States Army has announced plans to test robotic combat vehicles starting in March 2020 at Fort Carson in Colorado. During that time, soldiers will participate in an operational test of modified Bradley Fighting Vehicles (tanks) called Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrators (MET-Ds). The test will influence future autonomous vehicle projects conducted by the US Army.

According to the US Army, the upgraded tanks feature cameras that provide operators with 360-degree awareness, a remote turret for the vehicle's 25mm main gun, and 'enhanced' crew stations equipped with touchscreens. The March testing will involve a pair of MET-Ds alongside four robotic combat vehicles.

The vehicles are, at this point in time, experimental prototypes that may never make their way into the field. Rather, feedback from the soldiers, drivers, and gunners who will participate in the test will be used by the Army Futures Command to improve its autonomous vehicles ahead of other future tests.

The autonomous vehicles are remotely controlled by soldiers, enabling them to get through an enemy's 'anti-access/aerial denial capabilities without putting Soldiers in danger,' the US Army explained this week. Officials are already looking to the future and plans to eventually add infrared kits on the front of these tanks that can find targets at a range of at least 14 kilometers.

The US Army plans to conduct its Phase II test of these vehicles in its fiscal year 2021. During that time, the Army will include half a dozen MET-Ds, four M113s, four light surrogate robotic combat vehicles, and another four medium surrogate robotic combat vehicles. As well, light robotic combat vehicles will be tested in Eastern Europe in May 2020.