Unmanned vehicles: Remote Controlled Kick-Ass

War is nasty business. We’ve spent the past decade fighting, and who knows how many lives and limbs have been lost in it (I am sure someone somewhere has to keep count of those statistics), but guess what? There is an odd silver lining to all of this. Sure, it is caked with sand, and there are blood stains on it, but it’s silver all the same once you get the tarnish off of it. I can sum it up in a word: Drones, robots and UAVs.

Okay, so that’s three words, but they are all pretty similar, and they all benefit mankind in the same way, more or less. I’ll get to the “why’s” in a moment. For starters, let’s explore one of the more sinister sounding policies that our soldiers, especially spec-ops and snipers, employ; one shot, one kill. On the surface, it sounds awful, but then again just about anything does that includes the word “kill”, like “road-kill”, “kill pizza” or, I don’t know “kill puppy.” Anyway, you get the gist of what I am saying.
“Kill-pizza” being just about anything from Dominoes or with the word “meat” in its name.
However, despite the fact that it sounds terrible, that is actually an oddly pacifistic policy. Let’s say you have 300 enemies, we’ll call them Nazombies, because then undead and Nazis are both perfectly okay to kill en masse, and no one who isn’t an idiot can disagree with that. Okay, so we have one Nazombie that is a rabble rouser, waving his gun and shouting propaganda. You have 299 Nazombies that could maybe be rehabilitated, have useful information, or just, you know, don’t need to die. So you set up your sniper and he fires a single shot, the lead Nazombie’s head pops like a grape in a microwave, and suddenly the rest of the group is willing to negotiate. One kill saved 299 lives; this makes it a “good guy” move.
They’re like doctors, saving lives with high-powered scalpels.
Now, using that same philosophy of minimal death through efficiency, we have our holy trinity of automatons. How many soldiers need to die if we have a remote control jet armed with missiles? On our side? None, unless the controller chokes on a taco while strafing the enemy. Sure, it would be super swell if we could all just see eye to eye, or just as well, accept that just because someone disagrees with us that it’s okay and we don’t need to kill them, but let’s face it, the world is full of assholes. Shouldn’t we at least work towards the more attainable goal of killing as few as possible?
I am just going to say that the answer is empirically “yes” and move on. Now, remote vehicles are not a new phenomena, and I am not just talking about RC cars and those little kerosene powered airplanes; it turns out that the first UAV was made in 1916, and an army of flying drones was described by genius andoverall crazy god-figure Nikola Tesla the year before that.
The modern UAV developed from RC spy planes devised by the Israelis, which should surprise just about no one. Somewhere along the line, some enterprising individuals figured that if we could make airplanes that don’t need a pilot, why not tanks? And Boats? And Submarines? Apparently no one had any good arguments against him because the US military is building all of those.
For now, I will just list some of the more interesting ones, but expect full articles on these in the future:

UGV: Crusher

That is the Carnegie Mellon Institute’s Crusher semi autonomous wheeled robot. It is not only 8,000 pounds of terrain-mastering robotics, it also, along with the Ripsaw, Predator, Fire Scout, etc etc, marks the final move from the old naming conventions we’re used to with our military vehicles. Gone are the days where past warriors and generals, or noble animals, like Pattons, Shermans and Falcons were used to name them. Now we are finally getting names from the generations that grew up on GI Joe cartoons and first person shooters, and we have the names to prove it.

The Crusher isn’t just an awesomely named Roomba, though. It features an 6 cyalnder hybrid VW Jetta engine that runs on diesel, can climb 40 degree inclines, drive just fine if half of its wheels are on a 30 degree incline, and can determine its own route via GPS to make sure it always goes the quickest, least hazardous path. I predict automated all-terrain designated drivers in the coming decades.

UGV: Ripsaw

“Ripsaw” sounds less like a robot and more like a Quake or Gears of War weapon insanely attached to the front of a gun, but it’s a treaded unmanned tank that gets its name from the fact that it can go from 0 to 50 in four seconds, making its tank-like treads run like dual chainsaws. I predict that if/when these things go into service, pilots will be driving them onto enemy vehicles and soldiers, then gunning the engine, forcing the Geneva Convention to add a “Don’t do fucking donuts on people, people!” clause.

The robot can mount a variety of weapons, and is powered by, and I quote Wikipedia, “a powerful oversized and customized 650-horsepower Duramax 6.6L V8 diesel engine that delivers 900 ft-lbs of torque” Grrr-YEAH!!!! It is impossible to repeat those words, even through cut-and-paste, without feeling a surge of adrenaline and testosterone and the desire to run something the hell over. I’ll be right back, I need to go chase some squirrels in my SUV.

UAV: Firescout

This autonomous helicopter sounds like an elf character played by one of your friends in AD&D, rather than one of the Navy’s new toys. It can fly at 20,000 feet for over 3 hours, and can carry 700 pounds. Fire Scouts are also designed with wing-stubs, like an Apache helicopter, to carry everything from 200 lbs of first aid supplies for soldiers, to Hellfire missile, the Advanced Precision Weapon Kill System (Yeeee-haw!), and even laser-guided 70 mm rockets.

So, much like a good parent, the Fire Scout will provide comfort and safety to our troops while kicking the living shit out of those that would do them harm. I love technology.

UAV: Predator/Reaper

The Predator set the stage back when it was first deployed by being the only vehicle in existence named after an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. Although its role is mainly surveillance, it gets brownie points for having an ass-kicking name and spawning the Reaper, the weaponized version.

Nothing about the name Reaper doesn’t sound awesome. It’s a flying robot armed with missiles, named after Death, can fly for 12 hours with no refueling at a height of 60,000 feet. It has proven so effective that entire squadrons of F-16 pilots are being re-tasked to Reaper duty, and if there is any justice in the world, they do it while Highway to the Danger Zone blasts in the background. That or whatever shitty hair rock played in Iron Eagle.

UAV: K-Max

With all the chainsaw-tanks and death-planes in this list, it is a little surprising to see a lowly cargo transport in here, but that is pretty much what the K-Max is. It is awesome because it will make supplying troops (the actual ones on the front lines) about as safe as humanly possible. The K-Max can carry 6,000 pound loads, more than the weight of the k-max itself, and has 4 blades with both pairs spinning in opposite directions. The transmission is designed for “infinite life” and the blades are made out of fiberglass and wood to reduce damage caused by just using the damn things.

The counter-spinning blades make it a synchroper, arguably one of the better vehicle designations ever, and also making it more maneuverable. Oh, and it can be used to kill things; in fact, they slung a wrecking ball under one and used it for demolition. See? With a little ingenuity, anything can be a weapon.

UUV: Talisman

The Talisman is another non-lethal system, but that does not make it any less awes-ass (I am running out of adjectives that adequately describe these things). For starters, it is a stealth sub built using aircraft technology, its hull is carbon fiber, and it can be pre-programmed to operate all by itself for up to 24 hours. Despite this, at any point, they can link up to it via satellite and reprogram it on the fly, or just take it over and pilot it remotely.

They also carry other UUVs in the form of Archerfish anti-mine ROVs. So far, all tests have been completed with a 100% success rate. Nothing performs with 100% perfection, so I can only assume Talismans were designed using alien technology.

USV: Piranha

Finally, an unmanned boat, and it’s named after a famous kill-fish. This is completely appropriate; piranha (the fish) are pretty vicious considering they are glorified tetras. The boat-bot is 54 feet long, can carry 15,000 pounds of cargo and travel for 2,500 miles. It is also made out of a composite material called Arovex which uses carbon nanotubes for reinforcement, making it up to 50% lighter than a similar amount of more traditional composites.

Piranhas can be mounted with torpedoes, over the horizon missiles, and “stabilized” machine guns, because we want our murder-boats accurate, people! I imagine pirates in Somalia might reconsider dirt farming if the Navy adopts these. The system has been tested in the Puget Sound area for the past year, probably to see how it deals with giant cephalopods, in case we are ever invaded by aliens. (Like the ones that designed the Talisman)


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