The Army’s 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division and the 1st Brigade Combat Team at 10th Mountain Division will be the first teams in the Army to run training missions and testing with these robotic systems in the formations, said Bryan McVeigh, project manager for the service’s Force Protection Robotics Portfolio at an April conference.
The program, dubbed the Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport aims to remove much of a soldier’s load by carrying gear, ammo, food and water to fulfill a dismounted squad’s needs while on longer patrol.
Unmanned vehicles in ground combat units will likely first serve in resupply, transport and other logistics-based roles, said a lead Army Research Laboratory researcher.
“The optionally-manned MRZR X helps ease the transition from manned vehicles to unmanned because it maintains the functionality, drivability and multi-mission capability of a traditional MRZR,” said Patrick Zech, program manager, Polaris Government and Defense. “Providing the Army with the option for high speed operations or missions with a soldier driving behind a traditional steering wheel is an important part of our offering.”
According to Army requirements, the eventual pick for the SMET project must be an autonomous ground vehicle capable of carrying up to 1,000 pounds of gear over 60 miles in 72 hours.
The company said in its release that the MRZR X has a “layered, modular, open architecture,” which helps integrate sensors and software for future upgrades, said Matthew Fordham, an associate division manager for Applied Research Associates, Inc.’s unmanned systems and security products.
The ARA works with Polaris and Neya Systems LLC, a division of ARA,, doing work on “Modular Robotic Applique Kits,” or M-RAKs.
Marine reconnaissance units have used the Polaris RZR tactical vehicles for small formation movement in all terrain environments since at least 2015. Other special operations forces have used variations of ATVs for different training scenarios for many years.