Sunday, March 12, 2017

Road Warr-e-ors

During the Iraq War, one of the major "fronts" of the war was enemy attacks on our supply convoys. While the supplies never stopped, the casualties to keep the supplies moving were a potentially decisive pressure point to undermining support for the war. The Army is making advances in autonomous vehicles that would nullify that threat.

Interesting changes in the Army's Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) strategy:

Through 2020 the army plans to mature concepts and initiate or continue programmes that would increase situational awareness for dismounted forces at lower echelons, lighten carried loads for dismounted forces, improve sustainment via automated ground resupply, improve route clearance systems, and improve explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) platforms and payloads, the army said. [emphasis added]

Automating ground supply convoys and the route clearance missions needed to clear roads of IEDs and other threats to the supply runs would end the vulnerability of having troops in poorly protected convoys.

Yes, we did an amazing job of getting the supplies through this major enemy effort to inflict casualties with roadside IEDs. But casualties were always a potential threat.

In addition to the methods described above, we replaced military drivers with civilian contract drivers in the supply vehicles, which lowered official military casualty tolls. But those are still dead men.

And a small proportion of supply runs were transferred to aerial means.

So autonomous supply runs would eliminate that source of casualties along lines of supply.

But the supplies still need to get through and unless we want fully automated defenses--and a ruthless enemy would quickly react by using women and children as shields filmed to show American robot-killers in action--the supplies won't get through.

If we pair virtual soldiers that use a battlefield internet to man remote weapons stations on the convoy vehicles, we could have the ability to have both direct fire in defense of the convoy and eyes on targets to call in fires strikes against attackers. But without actual human friendlies in the convoy who can be killed.

Note that the long-term portion of the Army strategy includes "tele-operated" weapons. Which fits nicely with my proposal.

Plentiful supplies and few casualties sounds like a good combination to me.

Oh, and here's the Army report.