Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division recently ran the Robotic Combat Vehicle through two weeks of live-fire testing as the Army develops robot battle buddies to fight alongside its Next Generation Combat Vehicle.

The soldiers from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, out of Fort Benning, Georgia did the live fire at Camp Grayling, Michigan, in late April.

The platoon ran through a series of live fire events on the “Project Origin” platform. The platform is a surrogate system that the Army is using as it experiments while developing RCVs.

Soldiers used a remote control from behind a berm and visual feeds from drones tethered to the platform to locate targets. They then used M249 Squad Automatic Weapons, M2 .50 caliber machine guns and Mk19 grenade launchers mounted on the vehicle to strike enemy vehicles with two or fewer corrections.

Those weapons were fired using a wireless fire control built by Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace, according to a company statement. The company built the first fielded remotely-operated turret.

“The system worked very well. Right now, today, even in its status as test platform, this would bring a significant new level of lethality to our infantry forces,” said Sgt. 1st Class Richard Dyal, who was involved in the recent exercise.

The same soldiers also worked with the system back in November, using autonomous drive features, the drone system and the smoke module.

Data gathered through soldier testing helps develop the platform to better suit what the Army wants from its developing robot vehicle portfolio.

“Having the same soldiers engage with the Origin over multiple iterations reduces the learning curve, allowing us to spend more time testing systems and it also provides a constant level of feedback as the soldiers become familiar with these systems and how they interact,” said Maj. Cory Wallace, RCV team lead for the NGCV Cross-Functional Team.

Users are also looking to use the tethered drones as radio retransmission nodes.

“If I can put up the UAS to re-transmit while keeping my soldiers undercover and gaining 360-degree situational awareness based on what the UAS is able to see, I’ve greatly decreased the risk to my soldiers and increased the ability of our units to communicate with each other,” Dyal said.

The Army plans to build three versions of the RCV, a light, medium and heavy variant.

The light variant could work as both an armed escort and gear mule for dismounted troops in both offensive and defensive scenarios. The medium could carry a heavier load and keep pace with other crewed combat vehicles.

A company-level assessment is planned for 2022, Army Times’ sister publication, Defense News, reported in March.

Four RCV-Light vehicles from QinetiQ North America and Pratt Miller team won the prototype contract last year.

The RCV-Light is a diesel-electric hybrid with a gross vehicle weight of no more than 8,500 pounds and a maximum payload of no more than 7,000 pounds, boasting a top speed of about 40 mpg, according to Defense News.

The Army was scheduled to receive RCV-Medium prototypes in late April.

RCV-Medium is also a diesel-electric hybrid with a gross vehicle weight of 25,000 lbs. The vehicle has a remotely operated 30 mm cannon and top speed of more than 25 mph.

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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