Marine Corps Sends Robotic Mule To The Glue Factory

Gear
Marines with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment test the capabilities of the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), aboard Fort Devens, Ma., Nov. 5, 2013.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Michael Walters

After years of research and a modest price tag, the Marine Corps has decided to scrap its headless robotic mule. Officially called the Legged Squad Support System, or LS3, the robot was designed to lighten Marines’ loads while out on patrol, reports Hope Hodge Seck for Military.com.


The LS3 has gone through many changes since the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, teamed up with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab in 2010 to create a machine that could function autonomously and haul 400 or more pounds of weight.

In 2013, a second contract worth nearly $10 million was awarded for an additional phase of the program that would demonstrate how the robot would follow troops on foot through rugged terrain, carrying their gear and interpreting verbal and visual commands.

The latest iteration of the LS3 is the brainchild of DARPA and Google Inc’s Boston Dynamics and came about through a two-and-a-half year old contract costing $32 million, writes Seck.

The robotic horse got its major debut in 2014 during the Rim of the Pacific, the largest military exercise in the Pacific region. While the system proved it could follow commands and cross rugged ground, its shortcomings were also highlighted.

"As Marines were using it, there was the challenge of seeing the potential possibility because of the limitations of the robot itself," Kyle Olson, a spokesman for the Warfighting Lab, told Military.com in reference to the loud lawnmower sound that the robot makes. "They took it as it was: a loud robot that's going to give away their position."

Additionally, the robotic mule doesn’t have a set place in dismounted patrols and troop movements, and while the idea of having a robot shoulder part of a Marine infantryman’s burden sounds very appealing, it just isn’t practical. Yet.

Photo illustration by Paul Szoldra

Navy Lt. Jonny Kim went viral last week when NASA announced that he and 10 other candidates (including six other service members) became the newest members of the agency's hallowed astronaut corps. A decorated Navy SEAL and graduate of Harvard Medical School, Kim in particular seems to have a penchant for achieving people's childhood dreams.

However, Kim shared with Task & Purpose that his motivation for living life the way he has stems not so much from starry-eyed ambition, but from the pain and loss he suffered both on the battlefields of Iraq and from childhood instability while growing up in Los Angeles. Kim tells his story in the following Q&A, which was lightly edited for length and clarity:

Read More

You can almost smell the gunpowder in the scene captured by a Marine photographer over the weekend, showing a Marine grunt firing a shotgun during non-lethal weapons training.

Read More

A Marine grunt stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina is being considered for an award after he saved the lives of three people earlier this month from a fiery car crash.

Cpl. Scott McDonell, an infantry assaultman with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, was driving down Market Street in Wilmington in the early morning hours of Jan. 11 when he saw a car on fire after it had crashed into a tree. Inside were three victims aged 17, 20, and 20.

"It was a pretty mangled wreck," McDonell told ABC 15. "The passenger was hanging out of the window."

Read More

Todd Robinson's upcoming Vietnam War drama, The Last Full Measure, is a story of two battles: One takes place during an ambush in the jungles of Vietnam in 1966, while the other unfolds more than three decades later as the survivors fight to see one pararescueman's valor posthumously recognized.

Read More
Protesters and militia fighters gather to condemn air strikes on bases belonging to Hashd al-Shaabi (paramilitary forces), outside the main gate of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq December 31, 2019. (Reuters/Thaier al-Sudani)

With ISIS trying to reorganize itself into an insurgency, most attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq are being carried out by Shiite militias, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.

"In the time that I have been in Iraq, we've taken a couple of casualties from ISIS fighting on the ground, but most of the attacks have come from those Shia militia groups, who are launching rockets at our bases and frankly just trying to kill someone to make a point," Grynkewich said Wednesday at an event hosted by the Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

Read More