The United States Army has demonstrated a logical willingness to embrace and pursue the technologies of tomorrow in designing its vast arsenal of weaponry. From 3D-printed, on-demand drones to, now, an autonomous robotic Humvee that represents the cutting edge of robotics, nobody can accuse the United States military of living in the past.
The Army has already held a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration in which pilots were able to successfully pilot the Humvee, dubbed “Wingman” while utilizing the on-board 7.62 mm weapon system to strike targets. While Wingman may not yet be ready for battlefield deployment, the benefits of having an unmanned armored vehicle with advanced weapons capabilities are immense, namely the preservation of human life.
A high-ranking member of the Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) confirms that, for now, Humvees will require a human driver to function.
You're not going to have these systems go out there like in ‘The Terminator' [film], said Thomas B. Udvare, deputy chief of the program. For the foreseeable future, you will always have a Soldier in the loop.
However, the weaponry on those vehicles is in varying stages of rapid advancement, with gas-powered M240B machine guns giving way to an electronically powered version that doesn’t jam while firing. Wingman also incorporates a remote target acquisition and tracking system referred to as Autonomous Remote Engagement System, courtesy of the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD)
So, despite soldiers still risking their safety by being inside of the Humvee, these upgraded weapons systems will allow an advanced measure of protection for those drivers. This increased reliance upon technology in the military means a reduced need for humans to fill traditional roles on the battlefield.
Going forward, remote pilots will continue testing and perfecting operations of Wingman and its accompanying command and control Humvee at either Grayling, Michigan, or Fort Benning, Georgia. These tests will be conducted in May, with a date for battlefield deployment of Wingman and its accompanying vehicle remaining unclear.