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IPFS News Link • Robots and Artificial Intelligence

US Marines put rocket launcher on robot dog because, why not?

•, By David Szondy

Robotic dogs definitely score high on the adorableness scale with their strutting and scampering over the countryside and sitting up on their hind legs. But, for some reason, they apparently also induce an urge to load them up with sniper rifles and other weapons.

Having a robot dog (although the Marines called it a robot goat) with a rocket launcher strapped to its back may seem weird, but there is a very serious intent behind such demonstrations. Robots are becoming increasingly integrated into the armed forces around the world as a force multiplier that also increases a force's capability while keeping humans safe from harm.

In the case of the recent test, the purpose was to show how a small robot could support a soldier in a number of tasks, including engagements with armored vehicles.

The robot used by the Marines wasn't identified but bears a very strong resemblance to the Unitree quadruped robotic dog, which retails for about US$5,000. According to a spokesperson, the robot is too light, too fragile, and lacked battery endurance for real military operations. Instead, it was intended more as a demonstrator of the technology's potential.

For the test, the robotic pooch was equipped with a M72 Light Anti-tank Weapon (LAW) rocket launcher, which is a very lightweight, user-friendly, disposable launcher that's been in service since 1963. It isn't powerful enough to go up against a main battle tank, but it can handle lighter armored vehicles and other targets.

In addition, it's very easy to fire. You just take off the protective caps, pull out the launch tube extension, flip up the sights, turn the safety to Armed, and press the Fire button. The robot had all the setup done by a human soldier, while the remote operator fired the rocket.