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File Video Above: Accelerated Army New Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Will Launch Drones

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

Yes. Army robots will be armed with weapons but there will not be a terminator anytime soon. 

Decisions regarding the use of lethal force are, by Pentagon doctrine, required to be made by humans. This is of course for ethical and tactical reasons, as there are clearly more subjective variables of great relevance to decisions about lethal force which a machine is not well-positioned to understand. The unique attributes of human reasoning, intuition, feeling and intent are not things a mathematically-driven robot are in any way able to replicate.

However, there are calculations, procedural functions, data analysis and information organization tasks which AI-enabled machines can perform at exponentially-faster speeds. 


This is a fast-evolving technological phenomenon, and the Pentagon’s “human-in-the-loop” does not mean there will not be huge leaps forward in the realm of robotic autonomy. 

As algorithms advance, robots and unmanned systems will increasingly be positioned to take on more responsibility and decision-making authority to, among other things, greatly reduce the “cognitive load” placed upon human decision makers. The optimal strategy, Army modernization leaders believe, involves a careful blend of human cognition and AI-enabled unmanned autonomy. 

Robotic Combat Vehicle-Medium (RCV-M)

Robotic Combat Vehicle-Medium (RCV-M)

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This is the conceptual foundation of manned-unmanned teaming, which has only recently evolved into some measure of unmanned-unmanned teaming as well. The idea being to leverage the best of each into an integrated, high-speed blend of unique attributes able to complement one another. Information processing, sensor integration, real-time analytics, non-lethal decision-making, problem solving and sensor-to-shooter pairing can all be done much faster and more efficiently by computers, yet human thought, feeling, and many kinds of dynamic problem solving simply cannot be replicated by computers.

Robotic Combat Vehicles (RCV) Program 

These variables are all now informing the Army’s rapid progress with its Robotic Combat Vehicles (RCV) program which plans to continuously refine human-machine interaction and connectivity through upcoming soldier-robot experiments called “soldier touchpoints.”

The Army is now surging forward with testing and experimentation with its RCV-Medium effort, and all of the offerings now under consideration are armed, yet with the understanding that humans will operate in a command and control capacity when it comes to the use of lethal force.

General Dynamics Unveils Tracked Robot 10-Ton (TRX) at AUSA 2021

General Dynamics Unveils Tracked Robot 10-Ton (TRX) at AUSA 2021

“There will be a radio that connects the user with the robot, and the GUI. (graphical user interface), the user interface between the human and the robot. What we're really trying to get right is to make sure that the robot can interface with the human so that we have the lowest cognitive load,” Maj. Gen. Ross Coffman, Director, Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, Army Futures Command, told The National Interest in an interview. 
The goal is to ensure that the most crucial and needed human-machine interfaces are preserved and secured while robots and unmanned systems continue to take on newer levels of autonomy to free up human decision makers to use their faculties in an optimal, focused and most efficient way. Commanders at war will not need to divert time and energy away from those crucial variables, nuances and problems best addressed by humans.
“The autonomy reduces the number of human interfaces with the robot so they can actually perform on the battlefield in such a way that humans are less encumbered with decisions moving forward,” Coffman said.

Video Above: Manned, Unmanned Teaming

Also, while human’s might of course be needed to make decisions regarding the use of “lethal force” there are still many war contingencies wherein weapons might be needed quickly for purely defensive or “non-lethal” decisions. AI-enabled computing, for example, might be well positioned to identify and intercept incoming enemy munitions such as rockets, mortar fire or artillery without requiring human direction. Pentagon reports say these kinds of contingencies are now being described as an “out-of-the-loop” kind of scenario, referring to possible autonomous use of weapons which in no way involve lethal force.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President - The Center for Military Modernization