The New Face of War? One in 50 Troops in Afghanistan Is a Robot

Remote-controlled Talon robot.

From David Axe, the Danger Room:  There are more than 2,000 ground robots fighting alongside flesh-and-blood forces in Afghanistan, according to Lt. Col. Dave Thompson, the Marine Corps’ top robot-handler. If his figures are right, it means one in 50 U.S. troops in Afghanistan isn’t even a human being. And America’s swelling ranks of groundbot warriors are being used in new, unexpected, life-saving ways.

But there’s one small problem: however numerous, these rolling and crawling robots are still pretty stupid. And there’s not much hope they’ll get any smarter anytime soon.

Groundbots first made inroads among bomb-disposal units. The human bomb-techs could take cover and steer in a remote-controlled Talon or PackBot to disable a dangerous explosive device. But a third of the 1,400 fresh ground bots deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010 weren’t for EOD, Thompson pointed out during a presentation at a Washington, D.C. trade show “Robots are not just for explosive ordnance disposal teams anymore … They [ground troops] are using them in ways we never expected. …”

Bots are also being used to inspect vehicles approaching checkpoints, Thompson explained. Many other uses for unmanned ground vehicles are classified, he added.  (Photo: QinetiQ)

Image: QinetiQ%202%209%2011%20Talon%20robot%20Afghanistan.jpg