Marines Set to Test Big Dog Ground Robot

QUANTICO MARINE BASE, Va. — Marines will get their hands this November on the Big Dog — a robot built to scale hillsides, walk through brush and even crosss creeks all while carrying 400 pounds of gear.

Engineers will hand over the Big Dog to a group of Marines this November to test at Fort Devens, Mass., to see how well Marines can operate the robot and test how it operates under simulated combat conditions, said Maj. James Richardson, head of the Logistics Combat Element Branch of the Science and Technology Division of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory.

Engineers at Boston Dynamics and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have spent years developing the Big Dog, which is now technically called the Legged Squad Support System (LS3). Of course, no military development project could survive without a proper abbreviation.

Marines are displaying the Big Dog here at the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab display at the Modern Day Marine Exposition. The one on display has visible signs of wear from a recent test at the TwentyNine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center.

If all goes well at its test at Fort Devens, the Marine Corps plans on sending the Big Dog to Hawaii in July where it will receive further testing alongside Marines at the RIMPAC 2013 exercise, Richardson said.

The goal of the Big Dog is to offer Marine units a solution to taking weight off their backs with a robot that can traverse any terrain a Marine patrol may face. The robot is designed to walk seven to eight miles per hour. The Big Dog has a walk, trot and run mode.

Early feedback on the robot said it was too loud. Engineers have since reduced the noise it makes ten-fold. Engineers also engineered the Big Dog to pick itself back up after it falls down.

One of the biggest advocates for the Big Dog is Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos. He got his first look of the ground drone as commanding general at Marine Corps Combat Development Command. In September 2012, he and the director of DARPA saw the Big Dog operate first hand.

In July 2012, the Marine Corps had announced its two year plan to develop the robot. No official date has been set to decide if the Marine Corps will invest the money to make the Big Dog a program of record.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to He can be reached at
  • jamesb

    Why are my tax dollars being spent on this?

    • Dilbert

      Because once cost is down there are advantages to this over the alternatives.

    • UAVGeek

      Government spending isn’t paid for by taxes. The reality behind taxes is far more sinister.

      • radiogaga

        Government spending is paid by the tax payers, one way or another.

        • UAVGeek

          Actually no, it’s not. Go read how the interaction between the Fed and the Treasury works.

    • Rest Pal


      you mean wasted.

      answer: (i) because they can; (ii) US tax payers aren’t vigilant or educated enough to stop them.

    • Tom Billings

      Your tax dollars are being spent to keep Marines’ vertebrae from being compressed, often permanently, by the weight of the equipment they presently must haul around in their personal kit. The ability to carry more water and ammo along on a long patrol lifts the patrol’s effectiveness by increasing stay time in an observation hide, and its firepower if the enemy is encountered, as long as the LS3 can stay quiet.

      In assault situations an LS3’s use is more ambiguous, until the consolidation and pursuit phase begins. When that begins LS3 should again allow a Marine Squad to pursue the enemy longer and with higher fire capabilities.

      • blight_

        Good point. If it reduces attrition due to reducing infantry loading, troops will either move faster or carry even more gear…such as it is.

      • UAVGeek

        “Ounces equal pounds, pounds equals pain” -Friend who is an infantry officer.

      • Rest Pal

        First off, your claims are simply not true.

        Second, many more people doing far more constructive and meaningful jobs in the civilian industry are having their vertebrae compressed on a daily basis.

        Third, since the US has been invading other countries illegally, it’s not a bad thing to minimize the military’s capability in murdering civilians abroad.

        Finally, the US military has already got the best logistics support in the world. The same cannot be said about the civilian infrastructure – highways, bridges, rail roads, etc. (3rd world standard)

        The taxpayer’s money could be spent on better causes.

        The answer to jamesb’s question “Why are my tax dollars being spent on this?” is simply: the US has a corrupt, incompetent, third world style puppet government.

        • Steve Dixon

          Rest Pal – You can get away with saying that sort of rubbish because of the freedom to do so – the freedom guaranteed by doing those ‘less constructive and less meaningful jobs’ in the Armed Forces.

          Go elsewhere and suck a lemon please.

          • guest

            Dixon, you are mistaken. The Armed Forces are not there to protect your freedom, but that of the power that be.

      • Steve Dixon

        Good points except that, in my limited experience, when we find a way to “lighten the load” we just ADD MORE kit (extra batteries, gadgets, water, ammo, ad infinitum) until the old problems return.
        We’ve all experienced that awful feeling in the bush where we reach down to pick up our gear and momentarily panic because we CAN’T EVEN MOVE IT! What do we do? We suck it up, strap it on and move out.

      • Steve Dixon

        Good points except that, in my limited experience, when we find a way to “lighten the load” we just ADD MORE kit (extra batteries, gadgets, water, ammo, ad infinitum) until the old problems return.
        We’ve all experienced that awful feeling in the bush where we reach down to pick up our gear and momentarily panic because we CAN’T EVEN MOVE IT! What do we do? We suck it up, strap it on and move out.

  • jeff

    Wouldn’t a donkey do the same thing for a lot less?

    • Paul

      Yeah but if your being shot at, you would want something with thermal vision and bullet proof cameras to make my job easier. This is a new age that makes are men return home in one piece. Also, the amount of weight that a single soldier caries makes it hard to function. With this it can carry it and if is the bigger of the men that will take the fire off the men who serve with it. Its not perfect but if it helps I wouldn’t second guess it.

    • Anonymous

      No but we’ll spend billions and use billions of dollars worth of equipment to kill a guy riding a donkey.

    • Rest Pal

      yes, but the military industrial complex wouldn’t be making any money then, would it?

    • blight_

      Indeed, until you realize that your contract must specify American donkeys or burros, you can source them from America or Central American NAFTA signees and are paying 3x what a donkey costs in the states because you must ship them from the US to Pakistan, where half will get stolen and cut up for meat on the way to Afghanistan.

      Or you fly donkeys and feed on C-17’s. Unless you want to buy local pack animals?

      • I’m pretty sure you could have bought thousands of mules and flown them and their feed on C-17s to Pakistan for the price of the research that’s been invested on “big dog”. The only redeeming virtue for the research is that it moves articulated leg and arm research closer to reality for soldiers missing limbs. A worth while expenditure of money IMO.

        • blight_

          Working on costs now. What I can find right now is:

          “Feb /09: DARPA awards Boston Dynamics of Waltham, MA a $32 million, 30-month contract to to develop LS3 prototypes. Other team partners include Bell Helicopter, AAI Corp., Carnegie Mellon University, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Woodward HRT.”

          How many donkeys can be bought and shipped to Afghanistan with 32M? I’m curious how much they would cost in mass production…

        • radiogaga

          Are you talking about mounting a synthetic mule’s leg on a human?

          How big a pipe were you using when writing this?

          • blight_

            Kick from end of the soccer field to the other (note to non-Americans: we call soccer football, reserving the word “football” for an activity where the ball is kicked a few times, but mostly chucked, thrown or passed by hand all over the field.)

            By the way, the NFL is actually a “non-profit organization” like the Red Cross. Go tax law!

          • Brian

            To be clear though, the individual teams aren’t non-profit.

          • blight_

            Found an interesting link from a while ago:

            “It’s not that hard to believe. It’s the teams that take in the revenue. The league is just the organization that sells franchises and enforces rules.

            The Packers are a nonprofit organization (I’m a shareholder and see the annual financial reports), so it wouldn’t surprise me if the NFL is, too.

            The only thing non-profit means is that all revenues are plowed back into the organization. It doesn’t mean no money is made. It just means there’s zero on the balance sheet at the end of the fiscal year, after all salaries and expenses are paid.

            The only ones who pull in a profit are probably the owners of the 31 privately owned teams. (The Packers have no single owner, so any profits that would go to an owner on another team are simply put back into the franchise. We Packers shareholders don’t get any dividends.)”

    • ColdWarVet75

      Yes but he already is in the White House

      • Steve Dixon

        …and here I was thinking it was non-white southern GOOSE!

    • Rafy

      Donkeys are already part of the Marine Corps. Yes I do mean the real four legged ones.

      • Pastadawg

        I don’t know about donkeys, but the Corps does use mules. They’re two different animals.

    • rich

      I agree a donkey would be less trouble and less cost.

      • Curt

        Can a donkey fly in a helo without a problem.? Ride in a truck?
        Can a donkey stay where told under fire?
        Can a donkey survive without forage? Without water?
        Can a donkey sit on the shelf for a year when you don’t need it?
        Can you stack a donkey on a shelf?
        Can a donkey parachute out of a plane?
        Can a donkey ignore thinks like mountain lions? bears? coyotes?
        Can a donkey carry 400lbs? For how long?
        Can a donkey operate with a few bullet holes in them?
        Can a donkey draw fire if needed?
        If this works out, and it is a big if, it is vastly better than a donkey. Just a a truck was vastly better than a horse cart a century ago.

        • Rest Pal

          probably not, but then neither can the stupid “Big Dog”

        • Steve Dixon

          can a politician do ANY of those things?
          Although I do think the bullet hole question deserves research? (tic)

    • Indian Mediacine

      If it is any concession, it does look like a large “Bull Dog” that you do not have clean up after.

  • Boort

    The same reason tax dollars are spent on body armor, advanced medical technologies, commo gear, etc.

  • tribulationtime

    Buff….Don´t deserve a comment

  • Lance

    When do we get the AT AT walker going LOL.

  • blight_

    A wheeled or tracked minivehicle would’ve been a good first step…and perhaps a little cheaper to get together.

    But here is big dog. Will they use it?

    • tmb2

      They had a prototype for a wheeled unmanned cargo vehicle, but eventually decided to cancel it. The reason they’re playing with this seems to be its dexterity. It’s a neat technology and might be put to use further down the road (which is how things usually go in DARPA), but I don’t know if it makes sense deployed as is.

  • oblatt1

    “The US Marines – where stupid ideas go to get funding”

    • Ben

      KMAX is working out great.

      • AnonBob

        The V-22 is doing great too.

      • Rest Pal

        for the contractors.

  • hibeam

    I’m working on bad dog. It leaves behind organic mines to harass enemy troops.

  • Tom

    Could it be outfitted with a stretcher to carry wounded to a safe zone or landing area? Can it reverse and retrace its route autonomously to carry a wounded solder back to a landing zone or base?

    • majr0d

      I looked at this problem in simulation with the robot mule the Army was looking at for FCS. This robot doesn’t seem large enough though.

      Who protects the wounded as he’s moved to the rear? Who provides medical care for the wounded on the way back? If you send your medic what impact does that have on the unit that is in contact and how does the medic make his way back to the unit?

    • Tom Billings

      IIRC, the system has already demonstrated its ability to remember and use a previously traveled path, so that it can be sent to the rear, be reloaded, and carry the resupply kit to its assigned squad. I believe that separate work was being done by the Air Force, on a larger fan-propelled flying AUV for retrieving wounded more quickly.

  • conradswims

    Another waste of hardworking tax payer $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. Just stay our of the toilet places on planet earth in the first place.

    • Lee

      You mean like all of those $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ spent on the illegals that cross our borders and live better than our poor, who make $1.00 more than they should to qualify for aid? At least this expense has a combat purpose that any grunt can see. Maybe that is why they have the Marines trying this thing out, since EVERY MARINE IS A GRUNT MARINE.

    • Laura from OR

      I have no problem with this type of research. Marines have to carry heavy loads and they get tired. Tired Marines are in danger of not noticing trip wires and other hazards. I am all for something that helps carry equipment for these heroic Americans.

  • Joe_Sovereign

    Some day our robot overlords will look back at the Big Dog like we look at early human ancestors.

  • Chuck

    Back in Vietnam the Marine Corps used what was called a mule to carry heavy loads or a 106. I’m sure by now they could make a battery powered one so it would be very quiet. We could also use solar panels to recharge the batteries.

  • jsallison

    Needs some tweaking, first thing I thought was litter bearer

  • 03disGRUNTled31

    WE DO NOT WANT THIS RETARDED THING! Jesus, when the hell are they going to listen to the grunts they try to force this garbage upon.

  • chris

    LMAO!!!!!! Devil Dogs!!!!!

  • Super Tex

    This is a joke……………..Right ?

    • radiogaga

      just one of the many jokes, but paid for with real taxpayer’s money.

    • guest

      This country is a joke now. What do you think?

  • jamesb

    I HOPE so…..

  • iheartweimers

    Haven’t the Marines learned yet that they are just
    supposed to take the leftovers from the other
    services and not think too much? If they have to
    hump their own gear they won’t overpack, and
    will stay in shape to boot. Now where did I leave
    that RPG-27? I need it to test a mechanical dog.

  • Speedy

    The idea is that it carries gear for the men it is deployed with.
    This frees them up to carry more gear, meaning they need another one to carry that gear, to free them up to carry more gear….

    A donkey gets shot and hurt, this thing probably bites the ehad off the fool who shoots it.
    Give them time, and it will armed.

  • anthony

    I also agree two donkeys would carry the bagae faster and cheaper,they wont make so much noise either!!

    • James

      They poop, require water, need food and say that GOD AWFUL HEE HAA

      • blight_

        In the old days they cut the vocal cords on the animal?

        I suppose the smell of poop may give you away, and water is a heavy resource. On the plus side, you can give water to a soldier and shoot your mule for dinner, but fuel for the robot isn’t edible.

  • James

    I think it’s a great idea to take the weight off of Marines (Hopefully Soldiers too) but why not just do a tracked vehicle much like the tanks are built on? Still a really cool idea though!

  • C-Low

    This system has allot of potential. Mules are animals that have to be bread trained fed medical etc… very near humans with separate special requirements. Big Dog is robotic, so in peace time you stack them in a warehouse and you can ship them in standard equipment boxes. In wartime they take damage you replace the part , they run on fuel like your vehicles and aircraft, they can generate power which can charge the myriad of batteries, they all act the same no learning mule specific quarks, and most important THEY DON”T GET TIRED.

    This thing has mad potential once the bugs get worked out. In the near term I could see one of these things with vest slung on one side and a strapped to its back as a mobile fighting position. In the future after this thing has the bugs worked out maybe you can bring back the cavalry of old with men riding these things, talk about putting range and speed into a well unmounted well mounted patrol.

  • Seriously

    Foot Patrols are safer than being mounted (in a vehicle). More eyes on the ground to see potential dangers, and more freedom of movement through the battlefield. Oh and its still cheaper…

  • mike

    The last time I had a DOG this big, it left land mines the size of a VW Beetle. I guess a drone Dog doesn’t Poop? Really if this thing helps our troops; I’m all for it. Maybe they can invent one the size of my Chihuahua to go down rat holes and carry in a camera and leave an explosive to take out the CAVEMEN while still in their holes. It’s an idea. . .

    • dts3204

      Already working on that

  • Legged Squad Support System, LS3. Lassie… Someone in the Department of Acronyms is in for a bonus.

  • teejaym

    Am I seeing exposed hydraulic lines on that robot? Does it come with it’s own repair crew and extra parts?

  • GMan

    BIG-Dog! O.K. big dog sounds somewhat macho I guess, I’d rather go with a live Mule or Buffalo…but hey I’m sitting in my chair sipping coffee at the moment. I couldn’t help but recall many years ago in a land far far away..Our plattoon commander talked this old gentlemen farmer into using a couple of his water buffalo’s to pack some of our gear a few miles into the bush for us. The gear consisted of 2-81mm mortor tudes base plate’s, bi-pod’s and ammo…ofcourse we threw-in some other misc items. Upon reaching our site we took a collection and the gentlemen farmer returned home pocketing over a hundred bucks. Many years before that…the Army used mules throughout South East and West Asia, as well as parts of North Africa and Italy….all they needed was TLC and grain and those buggers would go anywhere. My father inlaw and his budy both former Army types, were mule skinners on the Island of Molokai taking dry goods and other misc stuff including tourist down a thousand foot mountain along swithbacks to the Kalapapa settlement, I to grew-up raising and riding horses and mules. Fast forwad to Afghanistan…A few Army SF personnel used donkeys to transport goods in the forward areas there during our the initial push in early 2000.

  • GMAN


  • JD 716

    Why not have the option to have a .50 cal man operated turret on it, or possibly hellfire rockets. Force multiplier without having the men have to hump the gear. Enough armor plating and it could sit down and provide mobile cover.

  • OD351

    Modifications, revisions and spin offs will be interesting to say the least.

  • Pastadawg

    Okay, we had the M274 Mule for many years that carried a lot more stuff and probably over just as rugged of terrain. So, why can’t we just upgrade the design of this and go with a reliable system?

  • haileigh

    i think that this is a VERY good thing to help the military

  • curtis gustafson

    It would be fitted for multiple roles. say one is loaded with holographic soldiers to draw enemy fire and track targets for real infantry……..or say one detonates mines with sound waves ahead of the battalion. Don’t shoot it down till we see it’s full development. I’m thinking smart J dam weaponry would be added to some as well. or remote recon and resupplying friendlies.