Robotic vehicle for infantry displayed at Pentagon

This year, two Army IBCTs and a not-yet-disclosed Marine unit will be testing variants of a load-bearing robot vehicle. Todd South tells us more.

The Marines want an unmanned vehicle capable of keeping up with its rifle squad and conducting squad resupply to unburden the grunt.

A Request For Information recently posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website keeps options open, telling interested industry partners that the mode could be a “robotic applique” on existing systems, a remote-controlled vehicle or a fully autonomous transport.

The system must carry between 500 and 1,000 pounds to outfit up to a 15-Marine unit. While the main objective is for the vehicle to move with the squad through inconsistent terrain, a nice bonus would be if it could manage intra-squad resupply, according to the posting.

It must run on rough roads and off road, go for between eight hours and three days, fit inside an MV-22 Osprey when fully loaded, and fit on a light tactical trailer in ground transport.

The system also must push out 1- to 3-kW of power to recharge and run squad systems.

The Marine Corps Rapid Capabilities Office wants information from industry by Nov. 13.

Marines participating in the Advanced Naval Technologies Exercise at Camp Pendleton, California, in March saw vehicles that might fit some of the requirements in operation during urban training sessions.

As far back as 2016, Marines were testing a tracked version of the Multi-Utility Tactical Transport, which could carry weapons systems or gear but at a lower rate than this current request. At the time, the MUTT could haul 600 pounds on land and 300 pounds while running amphibious for about 15 miles before power ran down.

A Multi-Utility Tactical Transport (MUTT) demonstrates its capabilities during the Advanced Naval Technologies Exercise 18 (Lance Cpl. Robert Alejandre/Marine Corps)
A Multi-Utility Tactical Transport (MUTT) demonstrates its capabilities during the Advanced Naval Technologies Exercise 18 (Lance Cpl. Robert Alejandre/Marine Corps)

This latest posting falls closely in line with an existing program in the Army known as Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport, or SMET.

The SMET program has accepted four submissions of similarly capable vehicles for testing by the 10th Mountain Division, 101st Airborne Division and an unidentified Marine unit at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

All four of those submissions are standalone vehicles that use either wheeled or tracked methods of movement.

The Army expects to pick the contract winner by 2020 after extensive field tests.