Ripsaw UGV Can Reload Itself in a Fight

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Army weapons officials recently showed off its latest effort at arming an unmanned vehicle to keep soldiers safer on the battlefield.

The Ripsaw unmanned ground vehicle, though still in development, has been tested and is capable of driving up to 1 kilometer ahead of various types of formations, said Bob Testa, lead engineer for the Remote Weapons Branch of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC.

Rather than reinvent something, Testa said his team selected a vehicle already produced by Howe and Howe Technologies, since it had remote driving capabilities. In 2009, “Popular Science” magazine named the Ripsaw the invention of the year.

Testa and his team converted the vehicle for Army use, according to a recent Army press release.
The Ripsaw is armed with a Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station, or CROWS, a system that’s been used in combat as far back as 2004 in Iraq.

CROWS allows a soldier inside a tank, Humvee, Stryker or any other vehicle to fire his weapon safely from inside the armor-protected vehicle. Cameras and range finders on CROWS see for him and the system can tilt and swivel the weapon as needed.

While that capability probably resulted in a lot of saved lives, the soldier inside the vehicle could still be killed or injured from a large enemy mine or projectile. So Testa’s team took the remotely-operated system one step further. They completely removed the soldier from the vehicle.

So the next step for his team was to design a weapon to fire remotely. ARDEC developed the Advanced Remote Armament System, or ARAS, a gun that self-loads its own ammunition and even can swap out various types of ammunition, such as lethal and non-lethal, in just a few seconds, he said.

During tests, the Ripsaw was followed by an M113 Armored Personnel Carrier. Trailing up to a kilometer behind, the M113 was driven by a soldier. Another soldier, in the vehicle, controls the Ripsaw and its weapon wirelessly, Testa said.

While it is technically feasible to go one step further and make the whole system robotic, meaning fully autonomous, Testa said that would not happen.

The Ripsaw and its ARAS are “tele-operated,” he said. That means a soldier remotely drives it and operates and fires the weapon.

Army leaders have repeatedly said that “war is a human endeavor” and robots will never replace soldiers, he said.

Besides the ethical reason, Department of Defense Directive 3000.09 “Autonomy in Weapon Systems,” published in November 2012, prohibits robots from making life and death decisions without a human in control.

While a lot of experimentation and testing has occurred, Testa said formal certification testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, would still be required to move forward. Also needed will be a “firm requirement” from the Army to move ahead past the development phase, Testa said.

About the Author

Matt Cox
Matthew Cox is a reporter at Military.com. He can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.
  • guest

    This is like Starwars. Get em Army.

    • blight_

      The ARAS system sounds promising. Could a Humvee team dismount and tele-operate the CROWS with the ARAS? Might be interesting to have a guy on the ground able to direct fires.

    • miles

      Roger Roger!

  • blight_

    Hey, great. Maybe we’ll return to multi-turreted tanks like the 1920’s and 1930’s and have teleoperated weapons for IFV’s. Return of the FPW days?

    As for the Ripsaw, it might be a good point vehicle for urban warfare…

    • kabir

      Wellcome amarican defence.-kabir. Gkabir71@gmail.com

    • Bernard

      I think this shows why IFV’s need to be replaced with cheaper APC’s. Let the UGV’s carry the big guns while the APC’s hang back with the infantry, maximizing troop capacity, and enabling air transportation for both as they’ll finally be light enough for it.

  • Christopher

    That’s nice but can it carry M230 mounted to a RWS on it?
    Might not have to lower the capacity of a Stryker if it could. Just buy a drone that can have an Automatic Cannon instead.

  • Lance

    Today this tomorrow T-800, SKYNET and nuclear war by 2017!!!

  • Derek

    I’ve always loved that vehicle, the tank track suspension is killer. I would love that on my truck. :D

  • TartanSixNine

    “prohibits robots from making life and death decisions without a human in control”

    I predict this will change once the Chinese start doing it

    • Bro Bot

      Yeah, I thought the “war is a human endeavor” statement was massively short sided. Anything that allows you to kill faster, more accurately, and at less cost can’t be ignored if you plan on fighting.

      If we wanted to be glorious men displaying individual skill we’d still be using Iliad tactics… Or fighting like Arabs ;-)

      • blight_

        “War is a human endeavour”…we will always use spears instead of guns.

        Hah, never

    • blight_

      More like “people are afraid of letting robots do their own thing”.

    • guest

      SKYNET is almost here.

    • Walter

      How do land mines play into that directive?

      • blight_

        Well..I suppose that’s why we’re moving away from land mines.

  • Jeff Edelman

    This is great! It can be used during Jade Helm 2, 3,….

  • dexter

    OMG

    the Ripsaw has been around for 6 years, and the best they did with it are tests where it drives a bit ahead of its controller

    these things have a huge tactical advantage, they can scout ahead of manned vehicles, being the first line of defence, and baiting out ambushes and IEDs

    even outside a full war, such an asset could have prevented a lot of Allied deaths and injuries in places like Afghanistan

    it’s nice to know the US army prefers to send back body bags, rather than broken toys

    • guest

      Very expensive toys.

    • guest

      Still won’t stop the remotely-detonated IED, if using a local spotter/reporter or a hidden actual on-site button pusher who doesn’t know, or care if he/she is to be sacrificed, one of the unique problems involved with actions against drugged-out and/or religious fanatics!

      • blight_

        Depends on if standard vehicles can be modified into UGV’s…otherwise Ripjaw indeed looks very different, and the attackers will probably destroy a different vehicle (preferrably a controller vehicle).

  • blight_

    Soviets did this in the ’30s.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teletank

    (Along with experimenting with the first flying tanks)

    • Bronco46

      This is nothing like that. This is a modern vehicle that has a very dynamic suspension. And an engine large enough to let this vehicle fly across the terrain. I’m not sure about speeds. But it’s in excess of 45 mph. It’s very agile. And can climb very significant inclines. It’s amazing seeing this thing in action.
      Rip Saw is a good name for it. It tears through the country side, urban areas, just about anything.

    • Aleksandar011

      Fast forward to 2015 Russia claim some of their Armata tanks will soon become robotic, they suppose to lead the charge. And they also claim, that by 2040 robots would be big part of Russian army.
      Oh, and don’t forget German Goliath mine and how it all started with Nikola Tesla and his robot: http://www.teslasociety.com/robotics.htm

      • blight_

        More power to them. Without a strong rival the American defense establishment will never be honest.

  • robotech

    Having been a robot tech in Iraq and repairing a lot of different systems such as the Talons and Pac bots, I can say that the last thing you want is any autonomous bot with weapons mounted. It’s way to easy to lose comms and if that happens, you lose control of that weapon system. They already use the talons and throw bots and several other systems to scount ahead, but that capability is pretty limited in terrain like Afghanistan where most of the land is veritical or very rocky and full of brush.

  • Bronco46

    I saw this system when these guys had a short lived series on television. It was a beast. And seemed to be something that the military could use. I’m glad these guys were successful with this!

  • Shawn McFadden

    Looks like the same type vehicle used in G.I. Joe Retaliation.

    • Christopher

      That because it is and these are the guys who made it.

      • Bronco46

        These guys first showed this vehicle on television about two years ago. It’s very small company started by two brothers. They started out making armored vehicles for the police to breach buildings to get to criminals. They have a small one man armored vehicle capable of going through a door. It wasn’t much bigger than a shopping cart and very effective. These guys are very good at this kind of thing.

  • Leon Suchorski

    So it can go out and confront the enemy without live personnel inside there to operate it. But who repairs the track, when it becomes busted? How does it go anywhere then?

  • JEFF

    What happens with Iran hacks the comms feed and steals one?

    • Bronco46

      Do you really think it’s that easy to do something like that? This is real life. Not some movie.

  • joe

    What happens when some little 12 year old figures out how to reprogram them to turn around and drive into us, I’ll keep the BEST GUNNERS on the battlefield USMC 1811 tank crewmen.!!!

  • Firey13

    Y’all do realise that once both sides field only remote control weapons on the battleground, there is no imperative for the other side to hold back using low level Tac nukes…

    • joe

      There is - the thing you’re fighting over.
      How often do you see a big set-piece battle out in the middle of nowhere? Either combat tends to be around and within the boundaries of a city/industrial area/etc, or else it’s relatively small skirmishes between patrols and ambushes - which are not worth employing nukes against.

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  • jmars

    the machine is speedy. how about when it gets loaded with 2 inches of armor to protect all that running gear and driver. its going to need a lot more horsepower than it has now.
    and will be the same as regular tracked vehicles. the demos are fine but far from reality

  • Apis-Media

    A modern day-day bible on thought leadership.

  • fig neutron

    i’m wondering about the encryption of signal. and how exactly the remote transmit-or and receiver are safeguarded against hostile hacks. how does one ensure such a device isn’t hacked remotely and used for hostile purposes in a combat situation. i’d imagine some sort of complex firewall system or synthetic polymer compound that can only allow certain wavelenghths to be recieved. thus are my speculations.