March 4, 2002 :Robot soldiers herald era of cheaper, 'safer' wars
The United States will this week choose a private contractor to develop the technology that will replace soldiers with robots on the battlefields of the future.
The new battle network, known as "Future Combat Systems", will enable sophisticated weapons to be deployed close to enemy lines with a minimum risk of casualties.
A spokesman for the Pentagon's Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency said: "The aim is to be able to do everything you would ever need to do on the battlefield, using a combination of manned and unmanned systems. They would be able to fire at things, defend themselves, do reconnaissance and find targets." Three rival consortiums, led respectively by Boeing, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin, are bidding to lead a multi-million-dollar project alongside the Pentagon. Officials believe that a first generation of battlefield robots will be ready for ground combat within 10 years, as part of an accelerating effort to overhaul the way wars are fought.
Even American special forces, which were used with devastating effect in Afghanistan to identify Taliban targets for air attack, could find that their services are sometimes no longer needed. Robotic "seekers" are being designed to help to hunt for enemy hideouts, signal their location and call in American firepower.
New weapons would include advanced laser guns and microwave cannon, fired from unmanned vehicles, which are now being designed to take over many of the functions of tanks. More advanced versions of the pilotless aircraft used in small numbers over Afghanistan would launch guided missiles and "smart" bombs at the targets identified by the ground robots.