USMC Gladiators to Pack a SWARM
The Thales UK SWARM Remote Weapon System has been selected for the United States Marine Corps Gladiator robot program, following a rigorous competition conducted by General Dynamics Armament & Technical Products (GDATP).
As DID wrote in Battlefield Robots: To Iraq, And Beyond:
“Carnegie Mellon’s 1-ton Gladiator recon robot testbed has longer range, can carry weapons, and is eventually intended to operate autonomously [see related post]. Robots of this kind are important components of the $120+ billion Future Combat Systems program, which has come in for sustained criticism of late.”
The Gladiator runs on diesel fuel, but can also operate silently in hybrid-electric mode. It’s carried in a Hummer, Shadow, or similar vehicle, and driven remotely by a soldier using a Sony PlayStation-like joystick (deliberate choice, they wanted something familiar). The soldier will also wear a special helmet fitted with an eyepiece that serves as a camera, allowing him to see what the robot sees.
A team headed by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, including BAE Land Systems (York, PA) and General Dynamics ATP won the $26.4M contract in February 2005, beating out Lockheed-Martin’s bid to design, develop and deliver 6 prototype Gladiator vehicles to the Marine Corps. CMU will deliver all prototypes of the three-ton robots by 2007 to the Marine Corps, which could deploy about 200 Gladiator vehicles in combat zones by around 2009 if the prototypes work as intended. Each Gladiator should cost between $300,000 – $400,000.
Down the road, the Gladiator Tactical Unmanned Ground Vehicle (TUGV) imay be able to carry out search-and-discovery missions in potentially hostile areas, warn dismounted troops of potential dangers ahead such as minefields, craters, trenches and hidden enemy positions, aand alert them to the presence of chemical, biological and nuclear hazards. All it needs now, is a system for mounting and firing various weapons and sensors.
Enter Thales UK. Enter SWARM (Stabilised Weapon And Reconnaissance Mount).
Remotely-operated weapons systems are a relatively new technology, but there are now several competitors on the market, from the American Recon/Optical CROWS to the Israeli RAFAEL Overhed Weapons Station, et. al.
Thles UK’s SWARM is a fully armored, remotely operated weapons system capable of taking a variety of different caliber weapons and sensor options. Like its counterparts, it was designed to be reliable, adaptable and low cost. SWARM will generally be fitted with a 7.62mm M240 machine gun and day/night sensors, but grenades, non-lethal “sting balls” or tear gas can also be fitted, as could a chain gun or a 40mm grenade launcher. Down the road, even more ptoent weapons could be added to give the Gladiator a stronger offensive punch.
SWARM weighs aproximately 300 pounds, and consists of two main assemblies: the Gun Processing and Interface Unit (GPIU) and the Weapon and Sensor Platform (WASP). If equipped with a standard M240 7.62mm medium machine gun, it can carry up to 600 ready rounds, track at 0.01 degrees/sec., and fire with an accuracy of less than 1.5 mils in a 10-round burst.
The SWARM systems will be manufactured at the Thales UK facility in Glasgow, Scotland/UK, where production is about to begin on 35 systems for the British Army’s Trojan Engineering Tank.
Additional Readings & Sources
- Roland Piquepaille’s Technology Trends (Aug 8/05) – The Gladiator’s First Public Appearance
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (June 09/05) – Battlefield robots saving lives, proving their worth in Iraq
- Space Daily (Feb 14/05) – Carnegie Mellon, United Defense To Provide TUGV’s for US Marine Corps
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Feb. 11/05) – CMU Building Armored Robot for U.S. Marines
- Winds of Change.NET (Jan 20/03) – MILTECH: From UAVs to “Throwbots”