A company recently selected as the winner of a program to create a “robotic mule” for troops to carry a squad’s worth of gear will have the next year to roll out the automated addition to dismounted soldiers.

The Army picked an offering by General Dynamics Land Systems version of the Small Multipurpose Equipment Transport, or SMET, in late 2019.

The $162.4 million contract kicks off what eventually will be 624 SMETs for the Army, which are slated to field to units by 2021.

The device takes the load off of soldiers by carrying water, ammunition, batteries and other items for sustaining a squad in remote environments.

The SMET will run both unmanned and optionally manned, be able to carry 1,000 pounds, traveling over a distance of 60 miles in a 72-hour period while also providing 3kw of power while stationary and 1kw while moving for charging equipment and batteries.

The mule can also be tailored to missions such as running remote weapons stations, casualty evacuation and launching unmanned aerial systems or conducting reconnaissance.

Soldiers with 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, and 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, along with Marines from 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, tested the SMET over most of 2019 as part of feedback for the Army eventually choosing the GD Land Systems variant.

The original four in the competition included the MRZR X, based off the Polaris MRZR currently in service with the Marines; the General Dynamics 4x4 Multi-Utility Tactical Transport or MUTT; the Howe and Howe RS2-H1; and the HDT Global Hunter WOLF, or Wheeled Offload Logistics Follower.

The MRZR X is a four-wheeled all-terrain vehicle; the Hunter WOLF is a six-wheeled vehicle that uses a morphed tire/track for traction; and the RS2-H1 is the only tracked vehicle submission.

The winner was and the MUTT is an eight-wheeled vehicle with a flatbed type of configuration.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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