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Marine Corps Systems Command News

Future and present meet in unmanned ground vehicles

3 Dec 2003 | Capt. Chad Walton

Science fiction movies have long used robots as a staple of their regular cast, but even now the Marine Corps is working on a machine that will operate forward of the front lines and provide scouting, flank security, direct attack and other tasks that will decrease risks for combat Marines.

The Tactical Unmanned Ground Vehicle, or Gladiator, is designed to support dismounted infantry and combat engineers during the performance of their mission, across the spectrum of conflict and range of military operations.  The Gladiator will provide the Marine Corps' Ground Combat Element with an unmanned tele-operated/semi-autonomous ground vehicle for remoting combat tasks in order to reduce risk to the warfighter and neutralize threats to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force. 

"This system is not intended to replace Marines," said Larry Hennebeck, the Project Officer, who works at Robotic Systems Joint Project Office in Redstone Arsenal, AL.  "The Gladiator will give commanders another alternative to sending out Marines on missions that are very dangerous."

The Gladiator will be capable of performing scouting, surveillance, & target acquisition; direct fire; bunker/light-armor destruction; obstacle breaching; nuclear, biological & chemical (NBC) reconnaissance; employment of non-lethal weapons; obscurant delivery; engineer reconnaissance; and transporting ammunition or equipment. 

The Gladiator will possess day & night video cameras capable of performing as well as an individual Marine with currently fielded binoculars and thermal imaging equipment; an integrated position locating system and laser rangefinder capable of accurately determining the location of targets; acoustic detection system; and anti-tampering/handling devices. 

The operator will direct the Gladiator TUGV from a hand-held unit that controls the various platform/payloads and data reception from the sensors. This will provide the Gladiator with tele-operational capability for remote command and control of the vehicle as well as data display, storage and dissemination.

The Gladiator system will use a modular, plug-and-fight configuration and will be capable of remotely employing a variety of equipment already fielded to infantry and combat engineer units.  This equipment includes the Anti-Personnel/Obstacle Breaching System, M240G Medium Machine Gun, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, Shoulder- Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon, Light Vehicle Obscuration Smoke System, Automatic Chemical Agent Detection Alarm, AN/VDR-2 Nuclear Detection System, Multipurpose Cart, etc.

"The Gladiator will significantly enhance the ability of Marines to accomplish assigned mission tasks,"  said Capt. Robert Parks, the Requirement Officer for the system. 

During recent Field User Evaluations by 1st Battalion, 2D Marines held at Camp Lejeune, N.C., the Gladiator had a chance to prove its worth.  "The Marines were surprised at the numerous ways the system could be used to enhance tactical level operations," said Hennebeck.  The Marines of 1/2 will be employing the systems during CAX 3-04 in January.

This system will increase MAGTF capabilities by:

· Reducing Marine causalities by remoting combat tasks and minimizing risks to individual Marines by eliminating or reducing their exposure to enemy fires, booby traps, or NBC agents.

· Significantly enhancing the ability of tactical commanders to detect, identify, locate, and neutralize a variety of threats to include enemy force activity, chemical and biological agents, and impassible terrain or unusable routes.

· Providing tactical commanders with real-time combat information, enabling real-time maneuver decision-making at the platoon/company level.

· Increasing our ability to operate at a higher tempo due to the increased speed at which we can conduct operations such as obstacle breaching, patrolling, reconnaissance by force, NBC & Engineer reconnaissance, etc.

· Increasing force lethality by being able to acquire and engage the enemy at extended ranges.

Maximizing Economy of Force efforts by requiring fewer personnel to conduct combat tasks, conserving Marines' strength, and reducing risks in secondary areas/efforts.  In this capacity the system will serve as a force multiplier.

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