U.S. military advisors could be taking a self-driving pack mule back to Afghanistan with them on their next deployment.
The Small Multipurpose Equipment Transport (SMET), a semi-autonomous supply vehicle, interested commander of the 1st Security Assistance Brigade, Brig. Gen. Scott Jackson, the head of Army Futures Command Gen. John Murray told reporters on Thursday.
A SMET can carry up to 1,000 pounds of equipment for 60 miles in 72 hours, which could greatly reduce the burden of the gear and supplies that soldiers have to carry. It can also maneuver off-road, as to follow soldiers wherever they may need it to. It will be able to charge different devices soldiers need, generating up to three kilowatts of power.
The four prototypes of the vehicle being tested all use a hand-held remote for soldiers to control the vehicle.
Soldiers with the 101st Airborne and 10th Mountain divisions have been testing it over the last few months, Murray said. Sgt. Nathaniel Packard with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, said in a video released by the Pentagon that the vehicle is “very quiet when it was in stealth mode, you can't hear it 30-40 feet away.”
After seeing one in action, Jackson is “interested in potentially taking that with him on their next mission.”
The 1st SFAB returned from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan in November. Murray told reporters on Thursday that while Army Futures Command will be “happy” to help provide commanders with certain capabilities that they need, he isn't going to “force anything on a unit or soldiers that they don't want.”
Lest we forget, however, that where there is technology in the hands of soldiers, there is the possibility of those soldiers having to pause and perform maintenance on said technology.