SMSS robotic vehicles selected for Afghanistan deployment
U.S. Army troops’ equipment load to hitch a ride with six-wheel robotic “mule.”
To help U.S. troops carry their ever increasing equipment load, the U.S. Army will send four Lockheed Martin Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) to Afghanistan. The largest autonomous vehicle ever to be deployed with infantry, the 11-foot-long SMSS can carry more than half-a-ton of a squad’s equipment on rugged terrain, easing the individual soldier’s burden, which can often exceed 100 pounds.
The SMSS Block I variant, which will be deployed later this year, has a range of 125 miles and features three control options: supervised autonomy, tele-operation or manually driven. The SMSS sensor suite allows it to lock on and follow any person by recognizing their digital 3-D profile (captured by the onboard sensors). Alternatively, it can also navigate terrain on its own following a trail of GPS waypoints.
“SMSS is the result of more than a decade of robotic technology development, and we welcome the opportunity to demonstrate this capability in theater, where it can have an immediate impact at the squad level,” said Scott Greene, vice president of ground vehicles in Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control business. “The Army has tested the system’s capabilities in three domestic user assessments, and SMSS has been deemed ready to deploy.”
As part of the three-month Military Utility Assessment (MUA), four vehicles and a field service representative will support light infantry. A fifth vehicle and an engineering team will remain in the U.S. for analysis and additional support. In addition to the Afghanistan test phase, the SMSS has been selected as part of the Army’s Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) Spiral G in November this year.