The US Army will test robotic combat vehicles (RCVs) from the back of modified Bradley Fighting Vehicles next year.
Soldiers will test the RCVs during a month-long operational test scheduled to begin in March at Fort Carson, Colorado, US.
Testing will provide feedback to the Combat Capabilities Development Command’s (CCDC) Ground Vehicle Systems Center on autonomous vehicles.
Known as Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrators (MET-Ds), the upgraded Bradley vehicles consist of a remote turret for the 25mm main gun and 360° situational awareness cameras.
The Bradleys also feature enhanced crew stations with touchscreens.
Initially, the army will test two MET-Ds and four robotic combat vehicles on M113 surrogate platforms.
The MET-D vehicle will be able to carry a driver and gunner, as well as four soldiers.
Soldiers in the vehicle will conduct platoon-level manoeuvres with two surrogate vehicles that are equipped with 7.62mm machine guns.
CCDC-Ground Vehicle Systems Center emerging capabilities office chief David Centeno said: “We’ve never had soldiers operate MET-Ds before. We’re asking them to utilise the vehicles in a way that’s never been done before.”
The centre and next-generation combat vehicle cross-functional team will use the feedback provided by soldiers to undertake improvements for future test phases.
A key objective is to figure out how to penetrate an adversary’s anti-access / aerial denial capabilities without compromising on the safety of soldiers.
The army plans to eventually equip the autonomous vehicles with third-generation forward-looking infrared kits with a preferred target range of 14km and above.
The second phase of soldier testing will take place in the fiscal year 2021 when the vehicles will undergo company-level manoeuvres.
This phase will include six MET-Ds, four M113 surrogates, four light and four medium surrogate robotic combat vehicles.
Phase III is scheduled for mid-fiscal year 2023 and will involve four medium and four heavy purpose-built RCVs.