Marines launch competition to fund, build next wave of battlefield robots

Ed Oswald
Marines launch competition to fund, build next wave of battlefield robots
The Marine Corps wants to free up its soldiers to focus on the battlefield, so it's holding an internal competition to seek out new ways for robots to do supporting work.

A few weeks ago we told you about the U.S. Marine Corps’ plans for laser weaponry. That’s not the only way the Corps is looking to modernize its fighting force, as officials have now announced an internal competition to research (and fund) ways for robots to replace humans on a variety of tasks.

The Marines already have teams tasked with developing battlefield robots, and have a prototype robot that works together with others in teams to supplement ground forces. However, here the effort is aimed at giving others outside of those robotics teams — whether they are military or civilians working with the Marines — a chance to get their ideas in front of the military brass.

Officials are looking for participants to “identify missions or tasks assigned to your unit that currently requires a Marine (or Marines) to accomplish, that could, and should, be replaced by robotic, autonomous, or unmanned systems. Missions or tasks that are prime candidates for autonomous solutions are typically dull, dirty or dangerous in nature,” according to a video launching the contest.

Related: U.S. Army to test anti-missile technology on its tanks

Given its work on other high tech warfare projects, it is not too surprising that the Marines Corps is looking to modernize its fighting force even further. Officials already have said they expect a quarter of the fighting force to be replaced by robots within 15 years, so creating a kind of competition to encourage more innovation seems smart.

One thing that robots will likely not do is the actual killing. The Pentagon has already all but announced its opposition to that, seemingly acknowledging its potentially controversial nature among politicians and ordinary Americans like.

What officials are in favor of having robots do all of the assorted side jobs necessary to support a fighting force, allowing our men and women in uniform to focus directly on fighting the enemy — a potential battlefield advantage.