The US Army will begin the final testing of “robotic mule” unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) next month, Janes reported quoting a senior official of vehicle manufacturer General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS).
The Michigan-based military vehicles manufacturer will supply 624 UGVs to the army as part of a $249 million five-year contract signed last year, beating out three other proposals.
Janes reported that after the test, the company is planning to move into low-rate initial production of the UGV sometime between June and September, Tim Reese, the firm’s US director of business development said.
A First for Infantry
“This would be the first time the army has introduced this class of robotic ground vehicles to the infantry brigade combat teams,” Reese said.
He further explained that the vehicle can be modified according to user feedback.
“Once the infantry soldiers get their hands on these things, [we] will find interesting ways to use them. Maybe there is a mission that no one anticipated what soldiers in an infantry brigade find the Small Multipurpose Equipment Transport (SMET) vehicle particularly good for, and that would cause some modifications.”
Allows Infantry to Shed 45 Kilos
The battery-operated wheeled UGV has been designed to lighten the load for infantrymen. It can cover over 60 miles (97 kilometers) in 72 hours and carry 1,000 pounds (454 kilograms), the US Army said in a 2019 statement.
On average, the vehicle will relieve a single soldier of 100 pounds (45 kilograms) of weight.
An infantryman usually carries body armor, ammunition, and rucksacks loaded with water and other supplies.
The US Army said that the vehicle has been developed with soldier feedback as the guiding principle.
Don Sando, director of the Maneuver Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate based in Fort Benning, Georgia stated, “Direct Soldier feedback drove the requirements for the S-MET, and certainly helped determine what systems would work best for IBCTs (Infantry Brigade Combat Teams) to fill a capability gap.”