Machines Are Filling In for Troops

April 16, 2002 | Source: New York Times

The Pentagon is replacing soldiers with sensors, vehicles and weapons that can be operated by remote control or are autonomous.
These devices can function as heat detectors, radar, cameras, and microphones, for example, and can reveal decoys, pierce camouflage, operate in darkness and bad weather, do video surveillance, and detect enemy vehicles. They are smaller, lighter, cheaper, more fuel efficient, and easier to move; can avoid harm to humans; and are better at tedious, time-consuming tasks, Pentagon officials believe.

By 2007, X-45 unmanned combat air vehicles will be used to attack radar and antiaircraft installations. By 2010, they will be programmed to distinguish friends from foes without consulting humans and independently attack targets in designated areas.

By 2020, robotic planes and vehicles will direct remote-controlled bombers toward targets, robotic helicopters will coordinate driverless convoys, and unmanned submarines will clear mines and launch cruise missiles, military analysts say.