Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Watch Marines train with 'Squad X,' DARPA's team of autonomous robot battle buddies
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."
This article originally appeared on Military.com.
Inside Forward Operating Base Oqab in Kabul, Afghanistan stands a wall painted with a mural of an airman kneeling before a battlefield cross. Beneath it, a black gravestone bookended with flowers and dangling dog tags displays the names of eight U.S. airmen and an American contractor killed in a horrific insider attack at Kabul International Airport in 2011.
It's one of a number of such memorials ranging from plaques, murals and concrete T-walls scattered across Afghanistan. For the last eight years, those tributes have been proof to the families of the fallen that their loved ones have not been forgotten. But with a final U.S. pullout from Afghanistan possibly imminent, those families fear the combat-zone memorials may be lost for good.
After a string of high profile incidents, the commander overseeing the Navy SEALs released an all hands memo stating that the elite Naval Special Warfare community has a discipline problem, and pinned the blame on those who place loyalty to their teammates over the Navy and the nation they serve.
A group of vets are raising money to pay for a medal the Iraqi government awarded them, but never delivered
In June 2011 Iraq's defense minister announced that U.S. troops who had deployed to the country would receive the Iraq Commitment Medal in recognition of their service. Eight years later, millions of qualified veterans have yet to receive it.
The reason: The Iraqi government has so far failed to provide the medals to the Department of Defense for approval and distribution.
A small group of veterans hopes to change that.
For a cool $8.5 million, you could be the proud owner of a "fully functioning" F-16 A/B Fighting Falcon fighter jet that a South Florida company acquired from Jordan.
The combat aircraft, which can hit a top speed of 1,357 mph at 40,000 feet, isn't showroom new — it was built in 1980. But it still has a max range of 2,400 miles and an initial climb rate of 62,000 feet per minute and remains militarized, according to The Drive, an automotive website that also covers defense topics, WBDO News 96.5 reported Wednesday.