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Robotics United States

Pentagon To Send Robot Soldiers to Iraq 765

conJunk points out this AP story carried by Salon (also covered by various sources linked from Google News) "about the Pentagon's plan to send robot soldiers to Iraq in March or April. The program, Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection Systems, uses Foster-Miller TALON robots, and is said to be "years ahead of the larger Future Combat System vehicles currently under development by big defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics Corp." If it's successful, maybe our men and women in uniform will have to team up with the United Auto Workers to fight the robo-threat to their jobs." Note that (whatever other considerations you might have about such deployment), the Rules of Robotics that some readers have linked to don't really apply to remote-controlled drones, which is what these are.
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Pentagon To Send Robot Soldiers to Iraq

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  • obligatory. (Score:5, Funny)

    by dop9388 ( 650687 ) * on Saturday January 22, 2005 @10:09PM (#11445159)
    I, for one, welcome our new...oh never mind... I'll never trust a robot with a gun. It's like trusting a redneck buffoon with the presidency of the United States...oh wait...
    • by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @10:12PM (#11445174) Homepage Journal
      I wonder if they can run to Canada, too?
    • Well, as long as we have overlords, they might as well be shotgun-packing, [] AK-47-toting [] fly-eating [] deathbots [] that also kick our ass in soccer. []
    • Bush is no redneck. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 22, 2005 @11:21PM (#11445547)
      Bush is not a hick, he's from Connecticut. He's a prep school boy, went to Yale, Skull & Bones... make no mistake, this guy is part of the ruling class.
      • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Sunday January 23, 2005 @12:26AM (#11445864) Journal
        Bush is not a hick, he's from Connecticut. He's a prep school boy, went to Yale, Skull & Bones... make no mistake, this guy is part of the ruling class.

        Earlier in his career, a native Texan opponent defeated him by emphasing W's outsider status and Yale connections. After that W remade himself into cowboy.
  • by underpar ( 792569 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @10:12PM (#11445173) Homepage
    The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots. Thank you.
  • Ummmm.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jesus 2.0 ( 701858 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @10:13PM (#11445190)
    Note that (whatever other considerations you might have about such deployment), the Rules of Robotics that some readers have linked to don't really apply to remote-controlled drones, which is what these are.

    Uh, more like note that the "Rules of Robotics" don't apply in real life.
  • How long until they become sentient and turn on us?
  • Automation (Score:5, Funny)

    by PixelScuba ( 686633 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @10:14PM (#11445194)
    Somehow I don't think the men and women of the armed services would really put up that much protest if their jobs in Iraq were outsourced by robots.
    • Ok, I need one of these []

      Now, what options do I want?

      Gripper manipulator.
      Smoke dropping module.
      Grenade dropping module.
      Breaching tool.
      Gen III night vision camera.
      NBC sensors.
      UXO/countermine systems/sensors.
      Anti-Tank (AT4) launcher.
      Light Anti-Tank Weapon (LAW) launcher.
      40-mm grenade launcher (M203 barrel).

      12-gauge shotgun.
      Mounts for remotely controlled weapons including: M240; M249: M16; M82A1 (50-cal).

      Oh screw it, I'll take all the options. But... where's the pusher module?
    • Yeah, really.. better to have a couple of robots blown up by a suicide bomber than men and women serving in the military.
  • by miyako ( 632510 ) < minus language> on Saturday January 22, 2005 @10:15PM (#11445201) Homepage Journal
    Just wait, they'll control these using a 1337 brigade of FPS players, then some asshat will TK our entire military presence. Shortly thereafter whatever enemy we happen to be fighting at the time will send us the gift of nukes with "pwned" spray painted on the side.
  • by iamatlas ( 597477 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @10:15PM (#11445210) Homepage
    I do not think that the Iraqis will welcome their new robotic overlords. Or their guns. Probably not the bullets either. In fact, I think they may get kind of pissed...
    • In fact, I think they may get kind of pissed...

      Have you got some reason for thinking so? Or are you trusting the groupthink around here to validate your point of view for you?

      Maybe we should have sent 100,000 human shields instead? That would have worked.
      • Replying to grandparent:

        Oh, hang on. You mean the terrorist so-called "insurgents?" Funny. That's not the first thing that comes to mind when I think "Iraqis." That you associate all "Iraqis" with a minority of violent jerks who want to destroy any chance the country has of developing democracy says something rather disturbing about you.
        • by yasth ( 203461 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @10:55PM (#11445418) Homepage Journal
          Baka, Striking military targets is not terrorist action. To say it is, is to diminish the horror of attacks upon civilians. As a group they are insurgents, some (maybe many) are war criminals (striking from mosques and the like), some are terrorists (willfully striking civilian targets), but insurgents helpfully contains everything. So that is why it is used.

          As for the Iraqis not liking this, well it is probably true, even if the police were hunting a band of criminals with robots in my home town, well robots covering me with automatic weapons would not be the most pleasant situation. That doesn't mean I woduld want them to stop, but it would be bloody freaky.

          As for the tactics effectiveness, if it is used with restraint (i.e. mostly on those who are hostile, and not just all the time) then it could work really well, they would hate it, and that is a good thing. Sometimes you have to scare people, and riskless killing from heartless robots would probably break morale very quickly.

          The risk would of course if they were used as the face that most iraqis saw of the Coalition, hard to trust somebody who is aiming a weapon at you from a block away. Would you try to help someone who always apears as a robot? Would you risk your life to support them?

          There are also fairly serious abuse concerns, I mean if a bunch of guys shoot up someone, eyewitnesses might be able to finger them, but an anonymous robot? It is the perfect tool to frag a comander that you don't like. Or to settle scores. Though that is more novel stuff, give it time, and someone will probably try it.
          • by Fjandr ( 66656 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @11:53PM (#11445727) Homepage Journal
            Striking military targets is not terrorist action.


            Someone who finally understands the definition of terrorism!

            Terrorism is not bombing convoys or suicide bombs against mess halls. These are military targets. Even the crashing of a plane into the Pentagon was not a terrorist act, since the point was to attack a military target. The victims families might not like it applied to their family members, but those civilians killed on the plane were what is termed "collateral damage" in what was a military attack by definition.

            Taking civilian hostages and killing them if your demands aren't met is terrorism, but much(or most, hard to tell from the watered-down news in the USA) of what the insurgents in Iraq do is not terrorism.
            • by dmarx ( 528279 ) <> on Sunday January 23, 2005 @12:52AM (#11445968) Homepage Journal
              Even the crashing of a plane into the Pentagon was not a terrorist act, since the point was to attack a military target. The victims families might not like it applied to their family members, but those civilians killed on the plane were what is termed "collateral damage" in what was a military attack by definition.

              Even if we use your defination of terrorism, wouldn't the fact that the plane was a civilian plane make crashing it terrorism? Civilian hostages were taken.

            • The fact that the terrorists are engaging our military is a testiment to the Bush policy, and not a proof that they are not terrorists.

              While it is true that Terrorism is asymetrical warfare it is not true that they are waging a lawful or legal law -- and I use the terms lawful and legal very loosely.

              The West, as most modern societies do, self-impose basic rules of engagement and behavior. These rules of engagement are based largely on our values system.

              This is why the news of captured terrorists bein

      • In fact, I think they may get kind of pissed...
        Have you got some reason for thinking so?

        After all, don't happy people kill themselves in suicide car bombs all the time? Why would anyone think they'd be pissed?
  • by InterStellaArtois ( 808931 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @10:16PM (#11445213) Homepage
    I have to admit, when I looked at the site detailing these robots, I did look for a 'Order', or 'View your Shopping Cart' link ...

    Equipped with breaching tool, light anti-tank weapon launcher, 12-gauge shotgun and 40mm grenade launcher I must admit - for a moment I reflexively considered my available credit.

  • Somehow, this has me thinking of the old Steve Jackson game "Ogre []". I've still got a copy of "Ogre", "GEV", and at least one expansion pack.

    The basic McGuffin is you've got one huge mother of a cybernetic tank with armor plating that shoots micronukes and it goes up against an entire army - and the battle's a fair fight!

    Then again, with the current administration, perhaps I should be playing "Rivets" instead. "Rivets" were the third-world's answer to the superpower Ogres. The robots were rather dain-bra

  • GW really does lead an army of the undead!

  • Democracy. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by headkase ( 533448 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @10:23PM (#11445257)
    Democratic societies seem to abhor seeing their sons and daughters killed in war. Just think about a hundred years from now, the outcry that would be raised when a rear base of drone operators had actually been killed. Robot war machines let democracies exersize their will without actually having to dirty yourself with the experience of war.
    Whether or not thats a good thing, I don't know.
    • Re:Democracy. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Saturday January 22, 2005 @10:49PM (#11445392) Homepage Journal
      Somehow, I have this feeling that anything which reduces the amount of outrage at a war is a bad thing. Why? Cause wars are bad things. Why? Cause killing people is a bad thing. Why? Well, I don't think anyone knows the answer to that. It's just a given.
    • by xtermin8 ( 719661 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @11:01PM (#11445446)
      If only one side has drones, it sanitizes slaughter entirely too much. It would actually distort the meaning of democracy altogether. I would like to think a "democracy" is a nation where its people would be willing to place their lives in danger to protect their freedoms. Robot armys would seem to me to be a tool for empire building, and of tyranny.
      • by PopCulture ( 536272 ) <> on Sunday January 23, 2005 @12:07AM (#11445775)
        I agree, but I think the side that has the drones will not...

        certainly, they will only be used to secure democracy, free enslaved peoples around the world, and protect against WMD's.

        Really, I live in the US, I was out at happy hour at Mackies in DC when Bush made the announcement that we were going to invade Iraq.... everyone cheered. They bought rounds of shots for eachother. It was disgusting- you don't celebrate the start of a war, you celebrate it's end. We are already as sanitized to the violence, pain, and suffering of others. Just so long as it doesn't happin "on our soil".
      • Well, if I were an Iraqi national going to the polls, I'm pretty certain that having one of these things patrolling around the voting booths instead of a couple of marines would be very welcome.

        Why? In the type of war we're fighting in Iraq, marines are just one more target for a terror-bomb. By contrast, how fired up do you think some suicide-bomber candidate is going to get when told to "eradicate the infidel's Aibos! No robots will withstand our wrath!" Much harder sell, seems to me.

        Another aspect
    • When it becomes feasible, robot fighters do let governments go to war more easily, but it will virtually guarantee that a counterstrike by the enemy will be against civilians instead of the pointless hunks of metal. Explaining this to Republicans will be nearly impossible.
    • What the hell? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @11:04PM (#11445462) Homepage Journal
      Democratic societies seem to abhor seeing their sons and daughters killed in war.

      And all societies with different government structures don't???

      It's not like wanting your offsprings to live is a basic human trait, or a basic animal instinct common to most critters on earth or anything, no no no, that's specific to democracies!
    • Re:Democracy. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nwbvt ( 768631 ) on Sunday January 23, 2005 @01:22AM (#11446081)
      So you are thinking maybe its not a good thing to create technologies that lessen the horrors of war because that makes it easier to engage in war?

      So by that logic we should throw out all the body armor, armored vehicles, medics, and anything else that makes our troops safer.

      Hell lets throw out all that modern technology and go back to the "good old days" like during the Civil War, where over 50,000 died in one three day battle (thats around twice the total number of deaths in the entire Iraq war). I mean because of the horrors of war back then, people were so peaceful and never engaged in violence to settle a dispute.

      Hey, while we are at it, lets stop all those researchers making drugs to help AIDs patients. The more horrible the disease is, the fewer people will engage in reckless sex and drugs.

  • by mslinux ( 570958 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @10:23PM (#11445258)
    Good thing old Arnold is still around ;)
  • 1. Start selling the Daleks Survival Guide []
    2. Profit!
  • Johnny 5 (Score:4, Funny)

    by digitalgimpus ( 468277 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @10:26PM (#11445277) Homepage
    Anyone else think this image [] of the new robot/soldier looks like Johnny 5 []?

    In the movie Johnny 5 had Apple hardware... does this real one perhaps have a G5?

    Is it running Darwin (insert darwinism joke here)?

    It could broadcast what it's eyes/camera's see via a QuickTime Stream. It's voice can be done using text to speach. It can even sing (better than the movie) thanks to iTunes.

    Oh boy. I bet I'm right!
  • I don't think robots are the future of war. Maybe for a bit, when people can be killed or disabled by certain programmed criteria. But for the most part, economies are growing in information importance. Information because money, especially the interpretation of information applied. Therein lies a technological infrastructure that can be manipulated and attacked. It is that infrastructure which will become almost as important, if not equally important or more important than land once more money and empha
  • And isn't that the reality of military discipline? Soldiers are meat, fodder, expendable. I suppose having machines will lower the bar for ethics and morality when it comes to how much we care about the human beings which we are told are our enemies.

    • I realize this may become flamebait, but I just gotta answer.

      First, I agree with the relevant sentence: "..lower the bar for ethics and morality.." There is a danger that the ability to kill with impunity (in this instance, no danger to yourself) will lead to gross abuses of power. Sadly enough, it happens all the time.

      Terminator sci-fi scenarios aside, however, I believe that the end result will be a more complicated battlefield with just another offensive/defensive capability. It's happened before

    • And isn't that the reality of military discipline? Soldiers are meat, fodder, expendable.

      The reality of military discipline is that you have to do what you're told, because you can't manage complex military operations on the basis of nuanced discussions. But that doesn't mean that the people in the US military are considered expendible.

      The truth is that in wars people die. As a soldier you know you might loose your life, but American doctrine has never relied on sheer numbers. For better and sometimes

  • When we were fighting the bad guys hiding out in the cemetary, would have been nice to send in robots who could negotiate between headstones and then get around and shoot or otherwise incapacitate the evildoers, rather than waiting for a head to pop out from behind a stone or go in with a person and risk getting shot.
  • What you have to remember is that once these fighting robots advance enough, huamns will not be involved in wars anymore. The WHOLE war effort will be producing better AI and better materials. Wars will not be won by the number of 18 year olds your country has, but by the infrastructure and the amount of metal deposits.

    Soon it will be 1984, a never ending war. All metal will be reclaimed from the battlefield and all parts will be modular, meaning these wars could go on forever. It will be the perfect

  • by bechthros ( 714240 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @10:35PM (#11445319) Homepage Journal
    "The TALON robot can be reconfigured in the field by operators using simple pin mounted components and plug-and-play subsystems."

    Just so I understand this...

    We're giving automatic weapons, and license to kill, to remote-controlled robots that are not only hackable and abusable but that use PLUG'N'PLAY?!?!

    I can see the future general now... "Bring me Bill Gates!" []
  • Anyone who could strap themselves with explosives, walk into a crowded area filled with civilian men, women and children and blow everyone into small bloody fragments, cannot have any more intelligence than the stupidest machine it's possible to manufacture.

    I'm afraid civilization is playing catchup to terrorists when it comes to the dumb robot category.
  • by UlfGabe ( 846629 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @10:42PM (#11445359) Journal
    Seriously, unless these bots have 360 degree vision, some sort of self destruct mode you are going to quickly see these bots, and their guns being put into the other sides hands.

    Robots have no loyalty, they obey the RC.

    How soon till we have robowarrior-takedowns.


    Some dude walks up behind this bot and using Cloak, drill, and Tinfoil! covers up the bots recieving antenna and cameras. Takes the 200K POS apart and sells the gun(whats the going rate on the armament of these things, anyone?)

    Brainwash complete!

    I think people are the best weapon, and the cheapest.
  • This way the U.S. will finally win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. Go, America!
  • to read before discussion is archived. :)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The Viet Cong beat the most powerful, strongest nation that has ever existed. They did it with things like dung covered stakes in pits. Totally low tech.

    High tech works only if the enemy is stupid enough to stand in one place and fight you face to face. A million of these robots won't win the war in Iraq. Sorry Uncle Sam but if you want peace on your terms, you're going to have to kill everyone else on the face of the planet. If you are willing to commit genocide then these robots will be a great help
  • My concern would be that one of three things happen:

    1. Iraqi hackers hack a robot and use that information to turn all of the robots against our own people.

    2. The Iraqi's come up with a simple but effective EMP which causes all of the robots to go dormant.

    3. Another sand storm hits Iraq, gunks up all of the robot's gears, and we have wasted millions of dollars on useless military gear which is now only good for the junk heap.
  • I'm not sure if these robots can replace real AMERICAN soldiers...I mean have they been properly programmed to fire at allies as much as at enemies?
  • Did the terminaotr ever stop and ponder these precious 'laws'? Did skynet think Hmm maybe not? Just like those fictional events, its all fiction. In the real world people get killed. We've just gotten pretty good at doing it. :|
  • Battles are determined by folks who don't have the cojones to actually fight. Modern warfare seems to have become the occupation of the true coward....
  • by karmaflux ( 148909 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @10:59PM (#11445433)
    They are robots. They'll require soldiers to operate them. In fact, I hesitate to call them robots. They're more like glorified waldoes. I suppose if the mass of hydraulics that assembles cars can be called a robot, so can these.

    But they are not soldiers. There's a lot more to being a soldier than combat.
  • by Saeger ( 456549 ) <farrellj AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday January 22, 2005 @10:59PM (#11445438) Homepage
    Don't ask me how I got it, but I managed to obtain an *exclusive* corporate promo video of the new robosoldier in question: check it out here. []

    (actually, the video is an "old" CG animation clip called Tetra Vaal. Still gives me goosebumps to imagine what the powerdrunk elite would probably do if commanding a better-than-human army without a conscience.)

  • ... that audio animatronic they've installed over on penn ave.?
  • by Radical Rad ( 138892 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @11:17PM (#11445524) Homepage

    Having recently watched Fahrenheit 911 I find it interesting that the Carlyle Group is mixed up in this. Are George Bush Sr and Jr still part of the Carlyle Group or are they now only friends and former business associates with its investors?
  • Jobs? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Fjandr ( 66656 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @11:30PM (#11445596) Homepage Journal
    The comment at the end of the intro is absolutely lame, even though it was hopefully in jest. Being a soldier is not, and should not ever be, an industry. There should be no fighting for jobs in the military.

    If the national defense could be effected without risking any lives on the front line, that would be great from the perspective of reducing loss of life.

    That being said, I would only support it if the wars we fought were just. Since the US is mostly involved in wars based on lies and deception to further one agenda or another, I see the loss of life of soldiers as a necessary part of sustaining anti-war sentiment. Wars with no loss of life on the aggressor's part simply serve to increase the likelihood of further aggression with little regard for the consequences.

    Serving your country "for the money" is not serving your country. Military service should be about serving your country for the sake of service. I have no sympathy for those who complain about the bad effects of military service simply because they wanted a paycheck and a free ride through college, for those who never expected to see combat.
  • SWORDS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cbelle13013 ( 812401 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @11:30PM (#11445599)
    Anyone else realize that the acronym for this operation is SWORDS?

    Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection Systems.

  • by Berserker76 ( 555385 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @11:34PM (#11445617)
    ...kill terrorists on the other side of thw world from the safety of your own home. All the fun, none of the risk and only half the guilt for only $49.95. Log on at Any advancement in technology that helps protect and or save the lives of an American soldier get a big thumbs up from me.
  • by EinarH ( 583836 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @11:34PM (#11445619) Journal
    ..and is said to be "years ahead of the larger Future Combat System vehicles currently under development[..]
    ..the Rules of Robotics that some readers have linked to don't really apply to remote-controlled drones, which is what these are.[..]
    The systems in development by the big companies are different on so many levels that it's hard to compare them. Not to negate the accomplishment by the SWORDS Team but LM and others are aiming for more advanced systems. (This robot is more of a solution to the current problems in Iraq than a future system to replace existing systems. It's a add on to existing capabilities.)
    For example this system is remotly controlled at the infantry level out in the field by an operator that controlls the movement, behavior, offensive opperations etc according to the Rules of Engagement.
    The big corps strayegy and the DOD think tanks on the other hand belive that futore robots, weapon platforms, systems needs to be more independent and able to operate autonomously.
    The prime example here is the Unmanned Combat Armed Rotorcraft (currently on hold for budget issues?). The goal is to connect it to other units through the FCS and make it possible for it to operate without a base station with a controll crew. With the UCAR taking care of target indentification, engagement, movement and BDA there will still be a man in the loop to authorize weapon release. The DOD uses a "rating system" to describe the level of ability to operate autonomously. Level 3 and 4 is where most of the currect UAV are and I think this robot if it can be classified under the same system would be placed. AFAIK the UCAR will be level 6. (?)

    As the systems becomes more advanced with more sensors, "better AI", social understanding, more network sharing etc. the man in the loop will become somewhat irrelevant and reduntant as his information will come from the systems ability to indentify the opponent. Imagine if this robot in the future is stationed in Falluja and is tracking down some Freedom fighters| guerillas|terrorists|insurgents|civilians inside a building. Since there will be some delay between the operator and the robot it will be tempting to just "leave it to the robot to decide" aka "send the robot into the building and let him take care of it". Operating a M240 can be done much faster without a man in the loop. With IR, X-RAY, optical, laser, NV etc the robots can (in the future) track down the enemy much more efficently without the operator delay.

    So in the future I think the Military-Industrial Complex will seek to make robots that will violate all the three Laws of Robotics.

  • RC Killing for All (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Saturday January 22, 2005 @11:44PM (#11445675) Homepage Journal
    So you're sitting safely in the bunker in the middle of friendly territory driving your killbot around out there at the front when suddenly you lose signal contact. Reports start coming in that the enemy is jamming communications. What to do? Hmm, guess we're gunna have to send in the real soldier right? Nah, you're commander orders you to kit up, hike out to the front and get a line of sight on your killbot. 10 minutes later you're on the top of a grassy hill, face down in the dirt trying not to be seen and at the same time set up a laser link with your killbot. Once set up you've got the job of driving your killbot to find that jamming equipment and blasting it so your squad can get back online. This is harder than it sounds, after all you've gotta keep one eye on the screen (it would be a bit hard not to seeing as it is strapped to your head) and the other on your six so you can make a run for it if someone spots your forward position. Just another day in the new automated fighting brigade.
  • by justin212k ( 795026 ) on Sunday January 23, 2005 @02:48AM (#11446388)
    Have you looked at these things? []

    Now imagine you're hiding in a building, waiting for your chance to repel the evil americans storming your city. You've heard the american forces are well organized and have amazing technology, but you're entirely unprepared for an armed robot coming in after you. One of your fellow soldiers in another room opens fire with his AK-47, but succeeds only in damaging the robot's treads, and giving away his position. The robot returns fire with its rocket launcher, and at this point you feel desperation like you've never felt before.

    Sorry for the dramatic scenario, but I think it's worth noting that these robots could really inspire a sense of despair in the United States' enemies. I believe that it often takes a desperate person to view civilians as acceptable targets, and suicide bombers may often chose to be suicide bombers due to a feeling that nothing else will work.

    Also, I know the thought of killing other humans doesn't deter a lot of people from joining militias and armed forces, but it will be that much harder to feel any sympathy for invading forces if the face of the enemy is a slow-moving robot that has deadly accuracy.

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. -- Elbert Hubbard