WASHINGTON — The Marine Corps is developing an autonomous robot to help speed up MV-22 Osprey ammunition resupply missions, according to officials at Marine Corps Systems Command.
The Expeditionary Robotic Platform, or XR-P, as it is called, “can be used to speed up MV-22 supported re-supply missions in austere environments at unimproved landing zones,” according to a MARCORSYSCOM official.
“It is useful not only for ammunition resupply, but also for any general purpose cargo and possibly casualty evacuation,” the official added.
The XRP recently completed a successful trial phase in August, which consisted of loading 36 120mm mortar into and out of an MV-22 — mimicking real world operations, according to Bryan Freeman, the advanced technology integrator at Marine Corps Systems Command.
“This marked the first use of autonomous loading/unloading of a live aircraft,” Freeman said. “The system demonstrated waypoint following, obstacle avoidance, teleoperation, follow-me, and M327 Mortar towing all while holding 2,500 pounds of cargo,” he added.
The vehicle was able to drive on unimproved terrain, “traversing obstacles such as railroad ties, downed trees, ravines, and the like,” Freeman said.
The Marine Corps is also working on Joint Light Tactical Vehicle–based unmanned HIMARS launcher, according to Freeman. The M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, is a precision–guided rocket artillery system, which has been widely used by U.S. forces against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
“This could be missiles (in the case of HIMARS), an auto-loading howitzer, or just general logistical supplies,” Freeman told Military Times.
“This system is the first autonomous system to be certified by Naval Air Systems Command as cargo. It is also suitable for use with the CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters or any other Marine Corps cargo aircraft. However, the certifications for those still need to be completed,” he explained.
MARCORSYSCOM will continue to work with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab for further testing on the XRP.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.