Watch Marines train with 'Squad X,' DARPA's team of autonomous robot battle buddies

Military Tech
Squad X: Dismounted Units Partner with AI to Dominate Battlespace

There are #squadgoals, and then there are squad goals — and only one of them includes a potential future accompanied by autonomous robots.

Hot on the heels of the Marine Corps's head-to-toe overhaul of infantry rifle squads, a handful of grunts at the Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, California recently conducted field testing alongside a handful of autonomous surrogate vehicles engineered by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Squad X Experimentation program.


The Squad X program was launched in 2016 to give dismounted infantry squads the same "highly effective multi-domain defensive and offensive capabilities that vehicle-assigned forces currently enjoy," but infantry Marines simply can't support with current combat loads, according to DARPA.

But that doesn't just mean robotic mules to hump gear: as autonomous platforms become more integrated into current combined-arms squads, Marines will also face a "steady evolution of tactics," as Squad X program manage Lt. Col. Phil Root said in a DARPA release announcing the field tests.

"Developing hardware and tactics that allow us to operate seamlessly within a close combat ground environment is extremely challenging, but provides incredible value," Root said.

An artist's depiction of the Squad X Core Technologies in action(Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)

During the early 2019 test, a gang of autonomous ground and aerial systems that provided intelligence and recon support for Marines outfitted with sensor-laden vests as they moved between natural desert and mock city blocks at Twentynine Palms, while ground-based units provided flank security for the primary force

The autonomous systems "provided reconnaissance of areas ahead of the unit as well as flank security, surveying the perimeter and reporting to squad members' handheld Android Tactical Assault Kits (ATAKs)," DARPA said. "Within a few screen taps, squad members accessed options to act on the systems' findings or adjust the search areas."

The additional recon support on squad flanks could prove a major boost to Marine squads as continue to evolve in pursuit of that ever-precious lethality. And don't worry: DARPA has your inevitable SkyNet concerns in mind.

"A human would be involved in any lethal action ... But we're establishing superior situational awareness through sufficient input and AI, and then the ability to do something about it at fast time scales."

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Charles McGee (center), a decorated veteran of three wars, receives a congratulatory a send off after visiting with 436 Aerial Port Squadron personnel at Dover Air Force Base to help celebrate his 100th birthday in Dover, Delaware, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. (Associated Press/David Tulis)

Retired Col. Charles McGee stepped out of the small commercial jet and flashed a smile.

Then a thumbs-up.

McGee had returned on a round-trip flight Friday morning from Dover Air Force Base, where he served as co-pilot on one of two flights done especially for his birthday.

By the way he disembarked from the plane, it was hard to tell that McGee, a Tuskegee Airman, was turning 100.

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(U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stephane Belcher)

The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act would allow service members to seek compensation when military doctors make mistakes that harm them, but they would still be unable to file medical malpractice lawsuits against the federal government.

On Monday night, Congress announced that it had finalized the NDAA, which must be passed by the House and Senate before going to President Donald Trump. If the president signs the NDAA into law, it would mark the first time in nearly seven decades that U.S. military personnel have had legal recourse to seek payment from the military in cases of medical malpractice.

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Maj. Jason Michael Musgrove (Lincoln County Sheriff's Office)

A major serving at U.S. Army Cyber Command has been charged with distributing child pornography, according to the Justice Department.

Maj. Jason Michael Musgrove, who is based at Fort Gordon, Georgia, has been remanded to the U.S. Marshals service, a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Georgia says.

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( DSG Technologies photo)

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

A new weapon being tested by the U.S. military could give special operators a more lethal edge by allowing them to shoot underwater, according to Defense One.

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Sailors from USS George Washington (CVN 73) wear-test the I-Boot 5 at Naval Station Norfolk. (U.S. Navy photo by Courtney Williams)

Navy senior leaders could decide whether or not to approve the new I-Boot 5 early in 2020, said Rob Carroll, director of the uniform matters office at the Chief of Naval Personnel's office.

"The I-Boot 5 is currently wrapping up its actual wear test, its evaluation," Carroll told Task & Purpose on Monday. "We're hoping that within the first quarter of calendar year 2020 that we'll be able to present leadership with the information that they need to make an informed decision."

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