Marines Test Tethered Unmanned Vehicle


The Marine Corps is testing a tethered unmanned vehicle designed to follow human movement, carry supplies and perform a wide range of possible missions for forces on-the-move, industry officials said Sept. 24 at the Corps’ Modern Day Marine symposium, Quantico, Va.

General Dynamics Land Systems has developed the Multi-Utility Tactical Transport, or MUTT – a 54-inch wide, five-foot long, 750-pound four-wheeled amphibious unmanned vehicle engineered to help dismounted infantry units.

The MUTT, which can drive on wheels or tracks, can transport on-board an MV-22 Osprey, developers said.

“MUTT can help lighten the load. It can perform casualty evacuations and it can carry counter-IED components or communications packages. It is really multi-utility,” said John Rash, business development, General Dynamics Land Systems.

The Marine Corps recently conducted operations with two MUTTs at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., Rash added. One of the MUTTs carried communications equipment and the other helped lighten the load for dismounted Marines by carrying supplies.

“The MUTT will carry 600-pounds on land and it is amphibious. It will swim. While it is swimming it carries 300-pounds. It works off of lithium-ion batteries. With those batteries fully charged and carrying a full 600-pounds,a Marine can walk 15 miles with the MUTT before there is any degradation in battery power,” Rash added.

MUTT is not an autonomous vehicle but rather navigates through what developers describe as “tethering” technology. The vehicle operator uses a high-strength fishing line, or tether, to direct the movements of the MUTT, Rash said.

A vehicle sensor detects the movements of the fishing line which is pulled by the vehicle operator.

“The marine or the soldier operating this system is controlling the vehicle where it goes. This is a non-autonomous system. There are two sensors in the system. Basically when the tether is pulled out to two meters, a sensor tells that system to move forward or backward. An angle sensor tells the vehicle whether to move left or right,” Rash explained.

The concept of the vehicle is to allow the soldier or marine operating to have the freedom to carry a weapon and focus on mission activities while pulling the “tethered” vehicle along behind, Rash said.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • Jeff M

    This is going to be extraordinarily useful, once the technology matures (long range, noiseless, multi-terrain). I could see this being used for cover, in addition to enabling teams to carry much more.

  • Guest

    Opens up many opportunities to put crew-served or mounted weapons into the infantry/dismounted foot patrols. Imagine the usefulness of having an M2 .50 cal or M19 grenade launcher with your dismounted patrol.

    • mcducky

      Since it’s being pulled along it’s not going to have very good muzzle discipline…

    • tiger

      Weapons they do not lack. What they need is to lose is 70 pounds of crap on their backs so they can use them. That is what they are developing.

  • guest

    How about fuel cell instead of battery?

    • tiger

      Cheaper, lower tech, easier to plug in a outlet or hook up to a Generator & recharge.

    • Barry

      Once we’ve developed low-cost fuel cells (devoid of precious metals), that indeed would be the answer. In which case a MUTT could also serve as a mobile elec. generator, and even drinking water. But sorry, @tiger, I don’t think you’re going to find a lot of outlets where they intend to use the MUTT. So who carries in the generator and the fuel? The MUTT? Plus, Li-ion batteries present an explosive danger and, even if you do have that magic outlet, how long does it take to recharge the MUTT for those 15 mi. of autonomy?

      • KB

        Well, I’d have to say Barry that this is not exactly going to climb a cliff in Afghanistan and will be limited to trails and roads, so there will be a road network of some type to which batteries will be in some capacity in a quartering area. Plus the military has been a leader in solar charging materials and panels, so they have that option as well if indeed they are fortunate enough to get sun weather during the day to swap batteries out at that said quartering area. It’s a start, and since the military today basically is battery mecca, I’d think they are at least mature on that curve.

        • Barry

          KB I guess you’re saying that the Marines are not going to be climbing cliffs in Afghanistan, that the Marines will be limited to trails and roads, and that wherever the Marines go, they can count on a road network and sunshine and the time to harvest that sunshine, and a quartering area filled with highly explosive and flammable lithium ion batteries. Hoorah!

    • blight_qwerty

      Fuel cells: H2+O2->energy + water

      While generating water is cool and all, transport of sufficient density of H2 and O2 is tricky. You can try pre-chilled dewars transporting liquid hydrogen (~20 kelvin) and liquid oxygen (~90 kelvin) if you want to increase the power density. Using high pressures can help as well. Unsure if you’d beat the compact size of lithium-ion or the overall energy density of long-chain hydrocarbons.

      • Barry

        solid state hydrogen storage, not gaseous

  • rtsy

    Looks like a slow rolling target. Great for a road filled country, not so good in a tangled jungle trail.

    • tiger

      Better than being a slow walking target with that gear on…

    • CommonSense

      I dont think we will be fighting in any jungles any time soon….This application is geared toward our current combat mission desert and urban streets.

      • blight_qwerty

        I dont think we will be fighting in any jungles any time soon

        Now you’ve jinxed it

  • ken

    How much and what are the alternatives?

  • Taylor

    The fishing line control sounds like it could catch on bushes or rocks.?

  • jj

    With technology today there shouldn’t be a need for a string to guide it. It should be wireless…

    • jsallison

      Which can be jammed, intentionally or otherwise.

  • ken

    Perfect for flat desert terrain.

  • jsallison

    I could put low pressure tires on my Segway, and that could schlep my clubs, woohoo! Autocaddy for the win!

  • oblatt22

    A short ranged jeep that you have to walk behind - yes the marines have a new loser.
    Cant wait to hear of the reports of marine run aver by his own jeep LOL

    • ShamWowed

      What project, service, species has your blessing? Just curious if you can spew something from your mouth other than your apparent man crush with all things USMC or even DOD? I mean, are you okay with tanks, ships, subs, legos, what? Your internet warrior status is waning a bit with your typical BS. Why not share with the common folk your secrets to military and economic supremacy?

  • Batou

    The first time I watched a tethered UMV was during the film - Battle: Los Angeles. The freeway scene and I thought to myself, “what a stupid alien concept that is…!” Well, proves me wrong. BUT, if I was spotting for a forward mortar company, that MUTT is my first target - just to ruin the opposing fire team’s day. Funny enough, in the movie - that UMV (or should we call it AlienMV), that was the first thing the squad worked hard to take down. I hate shouldering a load as much as the next guy but the minute we can’t fight with what we carry personally - I get worried…

    • Hunter76

      Brilliant! We should get rid of all helos, trucks, humvees, etc so we can assure everything a Marine needs is on his back.

  • Beno

    Brilliantly simple and useful.
    Seems robust and practical for a lot of environments ( not all )
    I cant see the cost being high, but ….

  • Kostas

    The dimensions and weight of the vehicle make it unsuitable for use on a trail or at any real life off-road scenario. Just use a jeep instead. Moreover, recharging the batteries would be an issue

    • tiger

      We have no jeeps. They weigh more. Not as transportable by air.

  • Botas

    What if the cable snaps?

    • Hunter76

      Just tie on a new piece of line. If only all repairs were so easy!

  • Muttling

    Interesting concept, but I think it needs a LOT of work before its ready for battlefield operations. Now in a humanitarian mission like the earthquake in Haiti or even hurricane response, this would definitely be useful.

    As others have mentioned, battery recharge is a HUGE issue. It’s good for 15 miles, that’s about a 5 hour force march if you take your time. How do you recharge it, what is required to recharge it, and how long does it take to recharge?

  • Free Thinker

    how about instead of the tether, equip it with a tracker to allow it to sense the operator or grunts position and range? this can be infrared or a low powered laser, to eliminate the possibility of jamming or interference in the field.

    • bloke_from_ohio

      Jamming optical systems is easy. The atmoshpere does it all the time without enemy help.

  • Guest

    just another thing to make it easier , and kinder for a marine these days… As someone stated “how you recharge it?”

  • Joe Biden

    Must be for all those new “Infantrywomen” the Corps is trying to recruit. Also, the string idea is super neato… they could use some string between a couple of empty cans for secure communications.

  • bobbymike

    Waiting for the mounted Dillon Aero minigun version

  • Hunter76

    The tether concept is excellent! Cheap, dependable, unjammable, and minimum training for the operator.

    However, there are many circumstances where remote control would be useful. All the actuators are already in place, it would easy to add on a simple rc unit. Since the Mutt would be primarily tether-controlled, it would not pay the enemy to jam it.

  • John Callahan

    I remember when the USMC used to put handles on (anything) and then called it “Portable.” The times are changing. Anyone ever think,… How about carrying less.

  • Wilhelm

    very nice … but not on ice .. :)