Remember all the times scientists and tech people said the battlefield of the future would be full of robots? Most all of us envisioned some kind of humanoid, something that mimicked actual troops. As it turns out, that isn’t the first step after all.
The military has long used robots that don't look humanlike for tasks such as bomb disposal, but now, the U.S. Marine Corps may have a new weapon in its arsenal for combat, called the Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System (MAARS).
The mechanized weapons platform, which looks like a tiny tank, is still in the testing phase. Last month, according to this story frombusinessinsider.com infantry Marines from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines were taking the robot out on training patrols at Camp Pendleton and also to the Marines' desert trainng site at 29 Palms, California.
If the MAARS is actually fielded, it would complement the 12-person infantry squad that typically carries small arms, offering the advantages of a tracked vehicle that can take an assault role with a M240B machine gun mounted on top chambered in 7.62mm.
The MAARS can haul about 400 rounds on board, but must be reloaded manually. Alternatively, it can be reconfigured to carry a 4-tube 40mm grenade launcher instead of extra ammo. It only goes 7 mph, but that's fine in a role supporting troops who are on foot, and has a run-time of 8-12 hours, the story says.
Because of its size, it can be stopped by rough terrain, and still must be controlled at all times by a person, but the story says MAARS is just one of many technologies the Marines are testing “in order to field the ‘Marine Corps of 2025.’”
From the story: "Among other technologies that the Corps is considering are a fully-autonomous ground support vehicle, multiple smaller scale drones, and a precision airborne strike weapon that a grunt can carry in a backpack."
A bigger version of the MAARS is also being tested called the Robotic Vehicle Modular / Combat Area Robotic Targeting (RV(M))/(CART).
It's an unmanned ground vehicle that is big enough to haul the M134 Minigun, meaning it brings more firepower to the field than a Marine on foot could. It can also be mounted with a laser designator for marking targets for precision airstrikes. It weights about 1600 lbs. and has a maximum speed of 15mph with a carrying capacity of 300 lbs. and a 4 km operating range, the story says.
Of course, both platforms have a long way to go, but also represent dramatic changes in combat systems. Over time, robots like the MAARS will only increase in speed, range, and arsenal.