Bryan McVeigh, project manager for the Army’s Force Protection Robotics Portfolio, laid out the testing and acquisition for the Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport at the National Defense Industry Association’s Ground Robotics Capabilities Conference Tuesday.
By this summer, the 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division of Fort Drum, New York, and the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, will get to test the vehicle and provide feedback on what is likely to be the first major autonomous robotic vehicle in Army formations.
Robots in the air and on the ground will give dismounted troops a standoff capability they've never had at such a low level before, experts say.
The SMET will be an autonomous ground vehicle capable of carrying up to 1,000 pounds of gear over 60 miles in 72 hours.
Based on McVeigh’s presentation, the Army could eventually acquire as many as 5,723 of the vehicles. And they must come in under $100,000 each.
A recent competition at Fort Benning, Georgia, that lasted nearly a month put submissions through a torture test that included running through swamps, dense forests, inclines and declines in rough terrain, McVeigh said.
Two brigade combat teams will receive the Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport vehicle for testing this year. The vehicle is autonomous and can carry 1,000 pounds of gear for the infantry squad over certain terrain.
In a separate media round table in March, Col. Travis Thompson, who oversees the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command capabilities for soldiers, said that the competition to provide the supply-hauling vehicle began with 10 companies.
The list is now down to four.
Military Times’ sister publication, Defense News, reported in December that the companies are Applied Research Associates and Polaris Defense, as well as General Dynamics Land Systems, HDT Expeditionary Systems and Howe & Howe.