Robot Warriors May Win Future Wars
Date: February 19, 2005
By: Niels-Peter Granzow Busch
Translated from Danish by Lars Meldal (affiliated with TerminatorFiles)
While robots are fighting rebels in Iraq today, the U.S. Army is planning for still more battle robots in the future. Large sums of money have been channelled into a programme for winning future wars.
Robots do not require salaries or pensions. They need no sleep. But above all, they fear neither killing others nor being killed themselves. They are the born soldiers, pure and simple. This is how the straightforward and cynical score record looks like, as the United States of America is embarking on a major enter-prise to raise an army of robots. The first robots have already proven their worth in operations in Iraq. But more are on their way.
"Not until recently has the army seriously started the development of robots, but in ten or fifteen years time, a very large part of the army will be made up of robots", says John Pike to Politiken. John Pike is a leading American military analyst and the director of Global Security, an independent American web site analyzing global trends in military affairs. He believes that obvious advantages exist for the U.S. in launching robots for the battle fields of the future.
The future is near
His predictions are confirmed by a number of sources from the U.S. Defence, who appeared in The New York Times last week. According to the newspaper, a very large part of the U.S. combat troops will be made up of robots in less than ten years time.
"The U.S. Army will have these robots. It is no longer a question of 'if', only of 'when'", says Gordon Johnson from the U.S. Army's commanders-in-chief department in the Pentagon, to the newspaper.
For starters, the robots will be remote controlled by humans, but in the longer term, the vision is that they must be able to operate more or less independently.
In total, 127 billion dollars have been put into the programme called 'Future Combat Systems' - the largest enterprise in the history of the U.S. Defence.
"These robots are infinitely brave, since they do not fear to die, and they have no relatives who will miss them if they did", John Pike explains. He goes on: "Instead of deploying an army of human soldiers to the battle field, where half of them - countless studies show this - will never fire one single shot, and almost everybody without exception will be afraid to hurt somebody, we dispatch robots that have no pity and kill without mercy."
It is yet another advantage for the U.S. Defence that the robots are far cheaper to run than the ordinary G.I. Joe, who - according to a Pentagon report - costs more than three million dollars in training, equipment and pensions. In future pensions alone, the Pentagon presently owes more than 500 billion dollars to its soldiers.
Today, hundreds of American automated vehicles equipped with grab arms and cameras are already engaged in removing trip mines in Iraq or exploring rebel mountain cave systems in Afghanistan. In only two months from now, eighteen new so-called SWORD robots, all armed with a machine cannon, are scheduled for deployment in the ongoing fighting against rebels in Iraq. These robots, about one meter high/tall, drive on caterpillars and are remote controlled by human soldiers via laptop computers.
In the air, robots have long been flying around for the Americans, namely the unmanned so-called drones, aptly named 'Predator' (carnivorous animal). These drones, remote controlled by operators in a command center located in the Nevada Desert in the U.S., were already used for surveillance tasks in 1995 during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, and they have recently stirred the Iranian government by flying across the nuclear facilities of the country, spying.
Lately, American television corporations have put a pressure on the Pentagon to release photos of drones firing missiles at Iraqi rebels. The Americans have a total of 58 drones in operation throughout the world. Most of these are not equipped with weapons, though.
However, newer and more advanced generations of robots are rapidly on their way. The American weapons corporation Lockheed Martin, for instance, has on its drawing board a series of thirteen different types of unmanned war robots for operations at sea, on land and in the air. Among these is a two and a half ton heavy robot tank called MULE, and according to a spokesperson for the corporation, the first prototype has already been successfully tested and approved by the U.S. Defence. It remains to be settled when production will get started.
"But we are looking forward to delivering MULE to the defence. It will exceed all expectations", a written statement runs from Lockheed Martin to Politiken.
John Pike from Global Security believes that the introduction of robots in wars will fundamentally change traditional warfare in the same way gunpowder, aeroplanes and tanks did.
"I think that, confronted with such an enemy, most ordinary soldiers will simply flee, since they have no hope of winning the battle anyway. That is why I also believe that the U.S. will - as far as possible - attempt to secure a monopoly position for itself, controlling the robots", the analyst explains. He imagines a sort of Pax Americana in the future, because most countries will not dare starting major wars or bother the Americans at all, fearing the war robots.
Man is in control
The editor of the reputed military magazine Janes Defence Weekly, Peter Felstead, is not that concerned: "I don't see a situation in the near future where the military will put its trust primarily in robotics systems, since it will always be necessary to have a person in control of the robot. It takes a human decision when a robot is to fire a weapon."
The editor does imagine, though, that robots and human soldiers will cooperate on various assignments in the future. "But robots will never replace humans completely in a war. There are too many tasks that can be carried out only in the old-fashioned way by using ordinary human soldiers", he says.
John Pike from Global Security sees both positive and negative aspects of a future where a large part of the U.S. combat troops will be made up of robots. "We did nothing about the genocide in Rwanda, since we knew that intervening in the conflict would have cost a lot of dead soldiers, and nobody wanted to explain to the electorate why soldiers could be sacrificed in a conflict where nothing was at stake for the U.S. But if we had been able to dispatch robots, I think we would have done so", he explains.
Copyright © 2005 Niels-Peter Granzow Busch and Dagbladet Politiken
This article has been translated and reproduced with permission from the publisher