Prototype robot tanks are supposed to be about three years away, but it isn't clear just how much autonomy that they will have.
"We are going to build some tech demonstrators of the Robotic Combat Vehicle and actually get it into the hands of soldiers, ideally between 2020 and 2021," Nuckols said.These early prototypes will be built from the Army's legacy vehicle platforms, but they "will likely not look like the legacy vehicle," he said.
"The reason you don't want to take ... let's say an Abrams tank," Nuckols said. "Abrams is close to 80 tons now and has a significant sustainment burden. You don't want to have to pay for all of that weight and force protection when you don't have soldiers in the vehicle that you need to protect.
"You could have the same capability on a 25-ton vehicle and potentially have the same lethality as an Abrams," he said. . . .
If all goes well, "we are looking at potentially building a number of purpose-built Robotic Combat Vehicles sometime immediately following that 2021 experiment," he said.
Critics will argue that the effort resembles the Army's failed Future Combat Systems, an ambitious effort to design a new fleet of lightweight manned and unmanned combat vehicles and other platforms to completely dominate future battlefields, Nuckols said.
But the technology FCS depended on simply did not exist. The Army spent billions on FCS, only to see it fail when then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates killed the 27-ton Manned Ground Vehicles portion of FCS in the 2010 budget while criticizing the advanced design as ill-suited to survive current battlefield threats. . . .
"One of the critical underlying failures of FCS was the theory that you would be able to always see the enemy; that is just not possible. You are not always going to find the enemy first, no matter how good your sensors are and I think the Army understands that," he said. "You can't just always assume that you can have a lighter, less protected vehicle and be able to pick and choose exactly when and how you engage the enemy."From here.