US Army via Wikimedia Commons

As the Pentagon moves forward with various autonomous weapons projects such as the Air Force’s Loyal Wingman drone, the Army is headed in the same robotic direction. The Army is fast-tracking the development of a new class of unmanned, semi-autonomous robot tanks and other combat vehicles.

According to inputmag, it has issued a draft proposal for a range of new Robotic Combat Vehicles (RCVs) to provide “an extra line of defense” for troops on the battlefield.

These RCVs will be able to “drive themselves to the frontlines, detect enemies, shoot missiles out of the sky, and withstand heavy fire.”

More specifically, notes inputmag:

Three variants of RCVs are in development varying by weight — lights, mediums, and heavies, with each supposed to have progressively more firepower and durability. At the far end, the RCV Heavy will act as a wingman driving alongside human-operated tanks, capable of withstanding the same intensity of attack. The lighter weight variants, because they will drive far ahead of the manned force, don’t need to be as strong.

The RCV Light will carry just one anti-tank guided missile, but otherwise, it will likely just have a .50 caliber machine gun or a chaingun to fight infantry and unarmored trucks. The RCV-Medium is more like a regular tank, carrying two anti-tank missiles and a high-velocity 30mm autocannon that can fire armor-piercing explosive shells to kill light armored vehicles.

The Army wants these tanks to be modular with the ability for soldiers to quickly swap in new technologies and specialized payloads as they become available. The most important payload that soldiers have requested is defense against small drones, which are increasingly being used by adversaries to drop hand grenades and spot targets for artillery fire. Other requests include radio jammers and a “deathzone detector” that can warn troops of chemical or nuclear contamination.

For now, notes inputmag, “the Army says it wants a human pulling the trigger on the weapons. The tanks will be able to drive themselves to the battlefield, but someone will remotely operate the weapons from afar.”

But as the technology progresses, expect these RCVs to go full ‘Terminator’ at some point in the not too distant future.

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank.

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