The 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division was recently tapped to deploy to Afghanistan later this year or early next. And when they go, they may be bringing along a piece of gear initially developed for the now-defunct Future Combat Systems modernization program.
The PEO Ground Combat Systems announced yesterday that iRobot’s XM1216 Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV) had become the first robotic system to receive a Conditional Material Release, meaning that it is “suitable to meet operational performance requirements, and supportable within the environment it is intended to operate,” according to a statement from the Army. The PEO also announced that that forty-eight SUGVs would be distributed to the 3/1, and the U.S. Army Infantry School.
Developed by iRobot and Boeing as part of the FCS program, the SUGV—which has been described as a stripped down version of iRobot’s PakBot—has been undergoing testing with the Army for several years, taking part in several large scale exercises in operational conditions at the White Sands Missile Range in N.M., and at Ft. Bliss, Tx. The system weighs in at about 32 lbs., has four cameras, a 1 km laser range finder, and can be tossed through windows, driven through (open) doors or culverts, and dropped several meters into underground tunnels while not losing connectivity. It’s controlled by a joystick controller and receives information through live and still imagery.
In January, iRobot announced that the first part of its SUGV order, the Brigade Combat Team Modernization Increment 1 production purchase contract had been finalized for $13.9 million, and that it had already delivered 30 SUGVs, with 15 more remaining to be delivered.
The contract called for the company to deliver 45 SUGVs as part of the Army’s low-rate initial production contract for the first brigade set of Increment 1 capabilities. The robot maker also announced on June 16 that it received a $7.4 million order from the Pentagon for more SUGV work. The Ground Combat Systems office hasn’t returned a call for comment on the combat deployability of the SUGV.