doi:10.3849/1802-7199

POŽADAVKY NA BUDOUCÍ VOJENSKÉ ROBOTY PODPORUJÍCÍ MOBILITU

Michal KOPULETÝ, Ota ROLENEC

Text se zabývá úkoly, které se vztahují k ženijní podpoře pohybu, současnými požadavky na vojenské roboty a jejich budoucí aplikaci v rámci opatření podpory pohybu. Výsledkem tohoto textu je vyhodnocení požadavků na ženijní prostředky určené k podpoře pohybu a analýzu jednotlivých ženijních opatření z pohledu jejich realizace vojenskými roboty v budoucích operacích. Znalosti získané studiem vědecké a odborné literatury byly vyhodnoceny metodami analýzy a dedukce. Vědecké metody indukce a syntézy byly využity pro identifikaci možné budoucí aplikace vojenských robotů a pro sumarizaci dílčích závěrů. Informace, které se zabývají požadavky na ženijní prostředky podporující pohyb byly nashromážděny prostřednictvím metody strukturovaných rozhovorů s vybranými experty. Text poskytuje obecný náhled na téma robotizace ženijních opatření, vztahujících se k podpoře pohybu a požadavkům na vojenské roboty. Dále zprostředkovává náhled na budoucí realizaci ženijních opatření na podporu pohybu a může také posloužit jako vodítko pro zvažování možných investic v rámci Ženijního vojska Armády České republiky.

Klíčová slova

Vojenský robot; ženijní opatření; ženijní podpora pohybu; vojenská operace.

INTRODUCTION

The armies which invested in modern technologies and development of robotic systems have a considerable advantage over other less developed armies, which may make them stronger in combat. Even without a deep analysis we are able to predict that modern conflicts will be to a large extent carried by devices with a high degree of autonomy, thus with the greatest possible independence on human. Robotic automation is in fact an inevitable process of modern human civilization development and therefore the topicality of the issue is undeniable. If armies want to be competitive (facing new global threats), they will have to invest heavily in the development of modern technologies and especially into robotic systems.

The process of robotic application involves all military areas and military engineering (MILENG) is not an exception. Engineer support of mobility is one of the most important fields of activity of engineer corps and is crucial for meeting the goals of military operations. Based on technological development, it can be predicted that advanced robotic systems will play an essential role also in the engineer mobility support. This is the main reason from which the necessity to address this topic arises.

The paper identifies the most important tasks of engineer support for mobility and requirements for (robotic) devices that execute them. It also deals with the use/application of robotic systems for the engineer support for mobility and defines basic requirements resulting from previous analyses. The aim of this paper is to provide the first insight into robotic automation of engineer tasks for mobility support and to create a wider discussion among interested experts.

ENGINEER SUPPORT FOR MOBILITY TASKS

The engineer support for mobility is one of main MILENG roles. It is considered extremely important, as it is described in the Allied Tactical Doctrine for Military Engineering, where among the Joint Functions (JFs) Maneuver and Fires together with Force Protection and Sustainability are emphasized. It is because of the essential nature of MILENG consisting of shaping the physical aspects of the battlefield. This fact is also supported by the results of the directed interviews conducted with engineer corps officers.

The engineer support for mobility is realized in order to create conditions for timely and concealed deployment of combat formation, to maneuver forces and to contribute to an increased force protection. In order to support mobility, engineers perform these main tasks [1]:

  • Gap crossing (including wet and dry gaps);
  • Countermine operations;
  • Counter obstacle operations;
  • Routes (developing and improving routes for tactical movement);
  • Explosive threat management (ETM);
  • Route clearance (RC);
  • Area clearance (AC);
  • Military search (MS).

The type of military operation has a significant influence on the engineer support for mobility tasks. There are four basic types of operations [2]:

  • Combat - tends to be characterized by a series of battles and major engagements with intense combat activity and high logistic consumption. Particular emphasis is placed upon maintaining freedom of action and denying that freedom to the enemy. The tempo of activities is usually high.
  • Security (operations to enable stabilization) - the transition from combat operations to defeat the opponent to multi-agency stabilization operations in order to re-establish security, stability and prosperity. Even vanquished conventional opponents may re-appear or be reinforced by irregular activists. The long-term goal should be to soothe the underlying tensions that led to the inception or resurgence of conflict, and to create the conditions for a successful longer-term development. The immediate military contribution, however, focuses on re-establishing and maintaining sufficient security for the local population and civilian agencies to ensure the continuation of the stabilization process. This involves preventing or containing violence and protecting people and key institutions.
  • Peace support - the use of force by peacekeepers is normally limited to self-defence. Typical peacekeeping activities include interposition and protection, the interim management of selected civil administration, and humanitarian assistance. Military forces contributing to peace enforcement should be capable of applying credible coercive force, impartially, to apply the provisions of any peace agreement.
  • Peacetime military engagement - encompasses military activities involving other nations that are intended to shape the peacetime environment (for example confidence building measures including, where appropriate, the deployment of combat forces) to encourage local or regional stability. Routine activity, such as bilateral or multinational training and exercises, may have both an immediate and a longer-term cumulative impact, reinforcing cooperation and promoting stability. Military effort may also be required, separately, to support disaster relief and non-combatant evacuation operations (NEOs), focused on preserving the security of the civilian population.

A combat campaign theme may consist primarily of offensive activities, while security has a complex mix of all four types and requires respective application of offensive, defensive, stability and enabling tasks. [3]

During combat operations, engineer support for mobility has usually the nature of direct support for combat formations. Tasks may be conducted under intense enemy fire or in overall hostile environment. For this reason, a high crew protection of engineer vehicles against enemy fire will play a significant role, while maintaining high rate of the unit’s movement. In contrast, in operations to enable stabilization there may be a lower overall tempo and intensity of combat actions. Nevertheless, engineer vehicles should still provide a high level of protection, especially chassis protection, which is based on threats in this type of operations, where IEDs (improvised explosive devices) are widely used. Engineer units will be required for detection and neutralization of these devices. In peace support operations, requirements for engineer vehicles will be focused from the crew protection to better technical mastery of specified tasks. In peacetime military engagement, it depends on the unit’s task within the area. The main requirement in these operations will be precise technical managing of engineer tasks. The table below depicts specific main tasks of engineer support that will be most likely performed in the respective type of operation. As we can see in the table, four main tasks of mobility support are essential in combat operations.

Table 1: Main tasks of engineer support for mobility in military operations

OPERATIONS (Ops)ENGINEER SUPPORT FOR MOBILITY TASKS ACCORDING TO ATP 3.12.1
Gap crossingCountermine opsCounter obstacle opsRoutesETMRCACMS
CombatXXXX    
SecurityXXXXXXXX
Peace support   XX XXX
Peacetime military engagementXXXXXXXX

Source: Authors

ROLES OF ENGINEER ROBOTIC SYSTEMS IN THE FUTURE COMBAT OPERATIONS

Based on the analysis of national and foreign publications we can predict that the availability of advanced military robotic technologies will constitute new opportunities for NATO countries as well as for the potential hostile forces. The application of advanced robotic technologies will increase capabilities of the future forces and their effectiveness and decrease the number of casualties in modern conflicts.

The development of sensors and unmanned systems will continue and affect all military branches. Conventional manned systems will be replaced by unmanned (robotic) systems acting automatically and autonomously. There will be a progressive tendency of replacing manpower by unmanned systems. [4]

Minimization of losses is always one of the main goals of deployed units in military campaigns. Heavy losses can affect deployed unit very negatively. Resistibility and force protection are extremely important in the sense of survivability and minimization of losses of forces and means.

Force protection is a very complex phenomenon, which affects all military activities. Reducing the operating personnel participation in using weapon and other systems is one of the main demands for the loss minimization. [5] Increasing of fires and limited possibilities of protection will lead to an unmanned theatre in the future. Modern technologies, such automated, unmanned and robotic weapon systems, will take over a large number of functions from the human in combat. [6] It is evident that the application of unmanned technologies will have a great impact on MILENG and, of course, the engineer support for mobility.

Other conceptional publications directly refer to military engineering and application of engineer robotic means. According to the Czech army conceptual document “KVAČR” (Concept of Development of ACR 2025) [7], land forces are composed of mechanized infantry, artillery, engineers, reconnaissance units, forces and means of electronic warfare, chemical corps, deployable logistics and forces and means of CIMIC and PSYOPS. To reinforce the engineer support capabilities, modern engineer means and material including intelligent robotic systems will be introduced and applied to many engineer tasks - road improvement and maintenance, breaching enemy obstacles, wet gap crossing, placing obstacles and improvised explosive device disposing. [8] Application of advanced intelligent robotic systems is in fact one of the basic declared requirements for enhancing capabilities of engineer support for mobility. Several mentioned engineer tasks directly relate to mobility support – road improvement and maintenance, breaching enemy obstacles and wet gap crossing are the essential tasks to be conducted by advanced robotic system in the future (by 2025) according to the Concept of Development of ACR.

The application of advanced unmanned systems will probably continue in haste. Their significance will grow quickly in all operational domains and by now we can predict rising numbers of unmanned systems across all domains – air, land and sea. These systems confirmed that can improve situational awareness, situational understanding, reduce manpower, increase performance of own forces, minimize risks for civilians and reduce overall costs in recent military operations. Unmanned systems provide persistence, versatility, ability to survive and reducing risks threatening human life. In many cases, unmanned systems are a preferred alternative in tasks called as 3D – dirty, dull and dangerous.

Features of these systems contribute to possible replacement of soldiers by robots in military operations. These features can be very usefully converted for military use. Unmanned (inorganic) systems differ from classic manned (organic) systems in many ways. It makes them very special and very suitable for conducting military engineer tasks. Selected special abilities of advanced robotic systems exploitable in engineer support for mobility tasks are listed below:

  • Robots enable soldiers to concentrate on other tasks;
  • Robots have the ability to perform tasks persistently;
  • They are immune to fatigue (constant effort and persistence);
  • They have immunity to stress;
  • They are immune to fear and emotions;
  • Robots have the ability to be non-aggressive and safe;
  • They are resistant and capable of working in extreme conditions;
  • They are expendable and replaceable;
  • They are capable of advanced sensing of operational environment due to sensors;
  • Robots have the ability to be faster than human (in terms of mobility and decision-making);
  • They are able to perform tasks without previous individual training.

Military robot is a mechanical device, which is autonomous or remotely controlled. It can replace or strengthen the soldiers and its activity is related to military operations. Military robots are defined by individual operational domains. NATO countries currently use terminology, which is widely acknowledged. In NATO countries, military robots are frequently defined as unmanned systems. These systems are divided into:

  • UAS (Unmanned Aerial System);
  • UGS (Unmanned Ground System;
  • UMS (Unmanned Marine System).

Defining of other domains related to unmanned systems as cosmic or cybernetic is beyond the scope of this text.

Figure 1: Unmanned system classification

kopulety1, obrázek se otevře v novém okně

Source: Authors

For the purpose of this text, it is necessary to define the term engineer robot. We propose to define this term as follows: Engineer robot is a military robot, which is designed to perform the tasks of military engineering. Engineer robots can be divided into two main groups according to their application:

  • Combat engineer robot – designated to perform combat engineering tasks (mobility, counter-mobility and survivability);
  • Support engineer robot – designated to perform tasks of general engineering.

Figure 2: Possible engineer robot taxonomy

kopulety2, obrázek se otevře v novém okně

Source: Authors

Each system has its own advantages and disadvantages. There can be cases, where use of manned systems, unmanned systems or combination of both are possible. According to the diagram below, we can decide which system is the best to use for the specific purpose. This basic diagram is also suitable for the tasks of engineer support for mobility.

Figure 3: Decision flowchart to aid unmanned/manned thinking


Source: Joint doctrine note 2/11: The UK Approach to Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Swindon: MoD, 2011. Available from: https://goo.gl/oaVeWK

However, the real battlefield situation is usually more complex. Manned systems with human crew will be augmented by unmanned systems more often in the future. They will create united, cooperative and cohesive groups of human warfighters and robotic means. Advantages of both systems will be combined and it will bring synergistic effect.

This will also project into tactical engineer echelons like mobility support detachments. These permanent elements of combat formations are primarily detached to support the mobility of their own forces. They are equipped with special engineer means like reconnaissance, bridging, breaching, demining and other to provide adequate engineer support for mobility. Capabilities of mobility support detachments will be greatly expanded due to technological process. Unmanned systems have already been successfully fielded in the areas of airborne reconnaissance and ground-based, standoff-capable explosive ordnance defence. However, the technological developments to be expected in future exceed these developments by far and open new possibilities for the employment of unmanned systems. [9]

Table 2: Rating of criteria for combat engineer vehicles

CRITERIARate of criteria according to each respondentAVERAGE VALUE
12345678910
Speed of movement to a task54533445454.2
Speed of task fulfilment (mobility)55545553544.7
Level of protection44344454454.1
Subsequent usability of vehicle45431334433.4

Source: Authors

Technological progress will lead to the merging of aerial, land and maritime robotic systems with manned systems – Manned Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T). MUM-T will provide key capabilities such as [10]:

  • Defeating the devices on the surface, in the tunnels, on the sea from distance;
  • Providing mobility through more access points;
  • Enabling movement and maneuver during offensive operations;
  • Sustaining supply communications;
  • Providing protection to simple forward operational bases;
  • Providing persistent surveillance.

BASIC REQUIREMENTS FOR ENGINEER VEHICLES

It can be noted, that the main request of the supported forces for the engineer support is an accomplishment of a task in the required quality and at the highest possible speed. The rate of task execution will be critical especially in a combat situation while supporting troops are in contact with an enemy.

Directed interviews were conducted with 10 officers of engineer corps. The interview concerned engineer support for mobility in combat. The following minimum criteria were set for the respondents:

  • An officer of engineer corps who holds the position of deputy of engineer company, a member of operational part of battalion staff;
  • Experience with planning and managing engineer support, participations on exercises (practical or simulation) within brigade task force or deployment in foreign operations during which he had solved an issue of engineer support.

In the directed interview respondents presented their views on criteria for engineer vehicles for mobility support of maneuver forces (see Tab. 2). They rated the criteria in the range of 1-5 and the same evaluation for more items was possible. Numeric values have the following meaning:

  1. insignificant;
  2. less significant;
  3. significant;
  4. very significant;
  5. totally significant.

The criteria stated in Table 2 have the following meanings:

  • Speed of movement to a task – how long does it take to a vehicle to be able to move from an assembly area to a place of task; this criterion is directly dependent on velocity and off-road capability of the vehicle, external factors influencing this criterion are the characteristics of the terrain and infrastructure.
  • Speed of task fulfilment – what time does the vehicle need to perform gap crossing, breaching or routes improving; this criterion is directly dependent on the ability of the working tool of the engineer vehicle, on its technological advancement, external factors are the width of the obstacle, depth of the barrier and degree of road damage.
  • Level of protection - ability to withstand enemy fire; this criterion is directly dependent not only on the armour of hull but also on the armour of the working tools of the vehicle (hydraulic distribution system, electrical cables, etc.), external factors are enemy firepower and closeness and level of suppressing fire for protection.
  • Subsequent usability of the vehicle – after fulfilling its task the engineer vehicle may, for example, deplete engineer munition and then without further replenishment become unusable (explosive deminers); this criterion is dependent on the characteristic of the vehicle, there are no external factors influencing this criterion.

The most rated criterion is the “speed of task fulfilment” with value 4.7, which means totally significant. It is due to the purpose of the engineer task, which is fulfilled in favour of maneuver units. When there is an obstacle on the road/area, the supported unit needs to cross it as soon as possible to cause the smallest possible loss of movement speed (tempo of attack). The longer the unit will remain at the obstacle, the more they are in danger of exposure to enemy fire.

The second most rated criterion is the “speed of movement to a task” with value 4.2, which means very significant. In addition, this criterion relates to the tempo of operation. However, it depends where the engineer unit is located in relation to the supported unit. It means that the reduction of time for movement from the assembly area to the area of a task is necessary.

The third most rated criterion is the “level of protection” with value 4.1, which means very significant. There was an opinion that engineer vehicles should have the same level of protection as the supported vehicles/units. But the prevailing view was that engineer vehicles for mobility support, that are moving close to the forward line of their own troops (FLOT), should provide resistance against small arms fire and shell fragments. Too much armour would reduce the abilities of engineer vehicles for their own performance of engineer tasks, increase weight and reduce their speed. In addition, these vehicles will be under the protection of suppressing fire as much as possible during conducting their task, not to be damaged or destroyed. Therefore, they would remain available for another task.

The lowest rated criterion is the “subsequent usability of vehicle” with value 3.4 that still stands for “significant”. A bridge tank can serve as an example. After laying a bridge, the crossing units may load it, reach supported units and if necessary lay the bridge over another obstacle. There are also disposable devices, which have to be refilled/replaced after employment. These devices include, for example, explosive deminers containing demining charges. It always depends on the situation, when and which engineer vehicles will be needed.

Figure 4: Final evaluation of requirements for combat engineer vehicles

kopulety4, obrázek se otevře v novém okně

Source: Authors

During the directed interview, more than a half of respondents were dealing with the “philosophical” engineer issue when choosing/acquiring a new engineer vehicle/device – the decision whether to buy a multifunctional or single-purpose vehicle/device. Two respondents were definitely for the single-purpose one because of higher performance for one given task, less demanding personnel training and lower purchase price in comparison with multifunctional device. One respondent was, on the other hand, clearly for a multifunctional device due to overall lower number of vehicles needed to cover the full range of engineer tasks and better logistic support during their transportation. But during the discussion about this issue most of respondents agreed, that it depends on the situation, whether it is support of units close to the front line under enemy fire (when it can never be exactly determined in advance what means will be needed) or support on request behind FLOT (when specific engineer vehicles are sent on request for the clear purpose).

In another part of the interview, respondents suggested what types of engineer vehicles they could imagine to provide the engineer support for mobility. Suggested types of vehicles/devices are:

  • Vehicle demining device – mechanical and explosive;
  • Explosive demining device for infantry;
  • Mechanical bridge with MLC (Military Road Class) 70;
  • Armoured single-purpose engineer vehicle for managing tasks close to a forward line;
  • Armoured multifunctional engineer vehicle on tank chassis;
  • Modern engineer means for breaching obstacles;
  • Modern amphibious vehicle.

The directed interview identified the emphasis on the speed of task fulfilment, speed of movement to a task and level of protection of engineer vehicles/devices for mobility support. Subsequent usability of vehicles has lesser value, but it is still a significant criterion.

APPLICATION OF ADVANCED ENGINEER ROBOTIC SYSTEMS IN ENGINEER SUPPORT FOR MOBILITY

Military engineering covers a broad spectrum of activities – from combat to construction. The character and phase of the operation affect the type of provided engineer support. Engineer tasks are usually very challenging and specialized. These types of tasks demand large quantity of time, forces, assets and require special equipment. [11] Traditionally, combat engineering tasks have been manpower intensive, time-consuming, logistically demanding and dangerous. [12] Engineer tasks are frequently conducted in a hostile environment with the risk of explosives. This makes them really dangerous for human personnel. The goal of this chapter is to analyse the usability of combat engineer robots in engineer support for mobility.

The analysis of possible use of robotic systems in engineer support for mobility tasks in combat operations is made in several steps illustrated by the figure below.

Figure 5: Analysis of possible use of robotic systems in engineer support for mobility

kopulety5, obrázek se otevře v novém okně

Source: Authors

The first step of the analysis is to define key engineer support for mobility tasks related to conventional combat operations. According to the first chapter, the key mobility tasks are as listed below:

  • Gap crossing;
  • Countermine operations;
  • Counter obstacle operations;
  • Routes.

The second step is to define criteria and assess every task from the 3D perspective. The specification of each of the criteria is as follows:

DIRTY are all tasks, where there is a risk of using CBRN weapons. Dirty tasks are not suitable for human soldier and can have negative health impact. These (dirty) conditions can negatively affect soldiers and technical assets as well. Typical dirty engineer task is, for example, support for decontamination. (0=task is not dirty, no possibility of using CBRN weapons, 10=extreme risk of using CBRN weapons.)

DULL are all tasks, which are repetitive, boring and require a lot of time and material to be accomplished. Dull tasks are characterised by increasing fatigue, stress, physical and psychological impact, etc. For example, engineer reconnaissance is very demanding and dull task. (0=task is not repetitive, it can be accomplished in short-term, 10=extremely demanding activity with a high risk of fatigue and stress.)

DANGEROUS are tasks, where there is a high risk of injury or death. Dangerous task can be related to combat and non-combat tasks, with a high probability of enemy direct/indirect fire, risk of explosion of explosive materials, etc. (0=task is very safe for soldiers, 10=extremely dangerous mission with a high risk of injury or death.)

All numerical values listed in Table 3 are related only to conventional combat operations. Analysis of engineer tasks in other operations is not subject of this paper.

Table 3: Evaluation of engineer support for mobility tasks in combat ops

ENGINEER TASKEVALUATION (ESTEEM)
DirtyDullDangerousTotal
Gap crossing99826
Countermine operations991028
Counter obstacle operations99927
Routes89724

Source: Authors

All data in table are estimated values generated by group discussion of military engineer experts of the 153rd Engineer Battalion. Every assessment is based on rational assumptions, that engineer tasks related to combat are fulfilled in hostile environment.

Figure 6: 3D level of engineer support for mobility tasks

Source: Authors

Among the main engineer mobility support tasks (based on the 3D assessment), we can include all tasks that have 20 and more points. It was evaluated, that all analysed engineer tasks were assessed as “3D critical”. These individual tasks are generally characterized by a high level of danger and high probability of exposure to enemy fire or explosives. Tasks are further characterized by high demands on manpower and resources and the necessary cooperation between the different branches. Particularly challenging and dangerous are the tasks that are associated with the direct support of frontline units.

The conclusion of the evaluation shows the fact that the engineer robots are suitable for the majority of engineer support for mobility tasks and in particular those tasks which are associated with the explosive threat disposal. Each operational domain is unique setting of environmental features. In a complex environment, all types of systems must cooperate and be interoperable in order to perform tasks effectively. [13]

Although we can generally say, that the robot devices are suitable for replacing soldiers within selected engineer tasks, it is necessary to specify these means more accurately. We assume that every type of unmanned system has its own specific features and is suitable for different engineer tasks. To compare possibilities of use of these means in engineer support for mobility tasks, we have to define their features. This study evaluates various robotic systems from the perspective of fulfilling tasks in different domains. Defined attributes of each system are Endurance, Speed, Launch and recovery, Navigation, Remote control response time, Range, Payload Capacity, Mission areas and Stealth. Comparison of unmanned systems designed for different environmental domains is based on RAND analysis.

Table 4: General features of unmanned systems

ATTRIBUTEUASUGSUMS
EnduranceUSVs have advantage over UAS, particularly when operating at low speedRelatively limitedUMS typically have the greatest endurance, USVs have advantage over UUVs
SpeedHigher speed possible than UMS or UGSLimited (less than 100 km/hr.)UMS speeds are lower than UAS or UGS speeds
Launch and recoveryUnique take-off and landing risks, additional sensor data may be neededRelatively straightforward; no different from the rest of routePort and harbour operation rules of navigation needed
NavigationGPS or inertial guidance to determine vehicle position sufficient in most casesTerrain and road maps needed in addition to vehicle positionGPS or inertial guidance to determine ship position
Remote control response timesMillisecondsMillisecondsSeconds to minutes
Control surfacesWings, ailerons, flaps and ruddersTires, tracks or feetFins, rudders, hatches and propellers
RangeBigger than UMSLimited to typical motor vehicle ranges (300 km or less)USVs have greater range than UUVs
Payload capacityLimited space, weight and power even for large UAS, very limited with small UASLimited, especially for UGV capable of off-road travelUSV have high payload capacity
Mission areasPenetrating, persistent, tactical, small tactical, micro/miniEOD, CBRN, protection, engineer, logistics, transport, ISR, C2Maritime security (ISR, port surveillance, SOF support, electronic warfare
StealthSome potentialNoneSome potential

Source: GONZALES, Daniel and Sarah HARTING. Designing Unmanned Systems with Greater Autonomy: Using a Federated, Partially Open Systems Architecture Approach. 2014, 65 pages. Research report (Rand Corporation). ISBN 978-083-3086-068. Available from: https://goo.gl/SDKmUL - modified

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) have advantages in speed, navigation, remote control response time, range and possible stealth technology application. They are suitable for penetrating, long-term and tactical tasks. UAS are predestined to fulfil tasks from the air domain. This allows them to move significantly faster than other systems. Flying at the height allows them to observe the battlefield from the bird’s perspective. On the other hand, their operational deployment is largely influenced by weather conditions, which seems to be a significant disadvantage.

Unmanned ground systems (UGS) are versatile, relatively fast and capable of off-road travel. According to the RAND study, UGS are suitable for EOD, CBRN, protection, engineer, logistics, transport, ISR and C2 mission areas. UGS use tires, tracks or legs to move on the battlefield and their ground mobility is sometimes very limited because of rough terrain. It negatively affects its payload capacity, operational range and navigation.

Unmanned marine systems (UMS) have typically the highest endurance and payload capacity. They also have some stealth potential. UMS conduct tasks such as maritime security - ISR, port surveillance, SOF support, electronic warfare, etc.

These findings clearly show that each system is primarily designed for a different group of engineer tasks and it is definitely reflected in the possible use of these systems in mobility support tasks. Based on the previous analysis, we can assign each type of unmanned system to individual critical engineer task.

Table 5: Possible application of robotic systems in engineer support for mobility tasks

ENGINEER TASKROBOTIC SYSTEM
UASUGSUMS
Gap crossing XX
Countermine operationsXXX
Counter obstacle operationsXXX
Routes X 
Explosive threat management X 
Route clearanceXX 
Area clearanceXX 
Military searchXXX

Source: Authors

Table 5 shows that UGS have the largest potential of application within engineer mobility tasks. UGS can be used in almost all engineer tasks supporting mobility. They are very suitable for tasks that are usually performed from the ground. Usability of UAS consists mainly in collecting engineer data about terrain, enemy, explosive hazard, roadblocks, etc. UMS are usable mainly in wet gap crossing (especially as amphibious vehicles), countermine operations, counter obstacle operations and military search. In order to ensure the entire spectrum of engineer support to mobility tasks in combat operations, it is necessary to implement these special combat engineer robots/vehicles listed in Table 6.

Table 6: Proposed advanced robotic systems

TYPE OF VEHICLESYSTEMSPECIAL FEATURE
Breaching vehicleUGSMechanical/explosive demining device
Explosive breaching means for the troopsUGSSmall, breaching device
Mechanical bridgesUGSFixed, mechanical bridge, MLC 70
Armoured engineer vehicle for direct supportUGS 
Armoured multifunctional engineer tracked vehicleUGSTracked versatile platform with engineer tools and equipment
Modern amphibious meansUGSAmphibious

Source: Authors

It can be assumed, that these combat means will have the characteristics of UGS in the future. Application of these systems would significantly enhance the capabilities of engineer support for mobility. Moreover, they would cover the entire spectrum of mobility support tasks and radically decrease the demands on manpower during combat. It is also essential to implement these systems into military engineering in order to minimize risk of sustaining casualties. The following table shows key engineer support for mobility task that can be fulfilled by proposed engineer combat vehicles. Table 7 shows that application of these systems will cover the entire spectrum of required tasks.

Table 7: Key tasks and proposed unmanned systems overview

PROPOSED COMBAT ENGINEER ROBOTSUPPORTED KEY TASKS
Gap crossingCountermine OperationsCounter Obstacle OperationsRoutes
Unmanned assault breaching vehicle XX 
Unmanned breaching means for the troops in the field XX 
Armoured combat engineer vehicle for direct support XX 
Unmanned mechanical bridgeX   
Armoured multifunctional engineer tracked vehicle XXX
Modern amphibious meansX   

Source: Authors

One of the most important engineer tasks, which is not considered in the tables, but is necessary for planning of all engineer tasks, is engineer reconnaissance. It is not possible to plan engineer tasks effectively without timely and relevant information from the battlefield. Only timely, continuous and active engineer reconnaissance allows keeping the pace of offensive operations. UAS technologies allow collecting and distributing tremendous amount of engineer information from the battlefield in real time. To ensure timely and continuous gathering of engineer information, it is also necessary to apply UAS systems in combination with manned systems into military engineering.

According to previous analyses, we identified the basic requirements for the application of combat engineer robots in engineer support for mobility tasks. Now we have to specify the individual recommendations, which can be useful for further scientific studies. In accordance with the identified findings, we recommend the application of advanced robotic systems supporting mobility of own forces. Priority should be generally given to UGS and UAS.

The application of advanced combat engineer robots will augment capabilities of mobile support detachments and simultaneously avoid possible risks. UGS and UAS will perform their task in an environment which is too risky for a human. In terms of mobility support, the critical requirement for these systems will always be the speed of breaching obstacles, minefields or gap crossing to maintain the high pace of maneuver.

Although the unmanned technology is relatively mature, it has not been widely implemented in combat engineering equipment. One if the main factors is the cost. As unmanned technologies become more cost effective, there could be more drive-by-wire combat engineering systems to enable the development of remote-controlled and autonomous systems. Fully autonomous equipment will require sufficient artificial intelligence (AI). As AI technology improves in the future, it is likely that systems for dull, dirty and dangerous tasks, such as mine clearing, will make the first push toward fully autonomous systems. [14]

CONCLUSION

Engineer support for mobility is one of the traditional engineer roles. Although the general character of support for mobility has not changed for several decades, engineer vehicles and equipment are getting more sophisticated. Unmanned systems can be very advantageous in many ways and especially in manual work reduction (minimizing manpower) and increasing safety. On the battlefield, there is always shortage of engineer units. If engineer robots reduce the numbers of the manpower required, it would naturally bring new opportunities. Soldiers will concentrate on the task, which can be fulfilled only by human power, so application of the advanced robotic systems would save limited engineer resources. It was identified that unmanned systems are highly usable and suitable for performing engineer support for mobility tasks while maintaining the principle of minimizing losses. In conventional combat operations, robotic devices are suitable for conducting all the analysed tasks - gap crossing, countermine operations, counter obstacle operations and building (improving) routes. Based on our scientific research, we finally claim that in order to keep abreast of the foreign engineer corps, systematic and gradual application of advanced and intelligent robotic systems in accordance with long-term conceptions will be necessary.



[1] ATP-3.12.1. Allied doctrine for military Engineering. Brusel: NSA, 2016.

[2] ATP-3 (B). Allied joint doctrine for the conduct of operation. Brusel: NSA, 2011.

[3] Ibid.

[4] GALATÍK, Vlastimil and Libor FRANK. Principles of Defence “2030” (in Czech). Brno: University of Defence, 2008. ISBN 978-80-7231-513-0.

[5] The Long-Term Perspective for Defencein 2030 (in Czech). Praha: Czech Republic Department of Defence - VHÚ Praha, 2015. ISBN 978-80-7278-666-4.

[6] Ref. 4

[7] Concept of Development of ACR 2025: a modified version for publication (in Czech). Praha: MO, 2015. Available from: http://www.mocr.army.cz/images/id_40001_50000/46088/KVA__R_ve__ejn___verze.pdf

[8] Ibid.

[9] Relevance and Possible Future Role of Robotic/Unmanned Systems for FINABEL Land Forces. Brussels: European Land Forces Interoperability Center FINABEL, 2013. Available from: http://www.finabel.org/files/studies/2014.Study_FDE.4.R__EN.pdf

[10] Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap 2013 - 2038. Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 2007.

[11] Ref. 1

[12] PHUA, Daryl, Chun TAN and Wong KIMBERLY. Technical Advancements and Innovations in Combat Engineer Equipment. DSTA Horizons [online]. Singapore: Defence Science and Technology Agency, 2015. ISSN 2339-5303. Available from: https://www.dsta.gov.sg/docs/dsta-horizons-2015/download-full-pdf.pdf?sfvrsn=0

[13] Ref. 10

[14] Ref. 12


Title in English:

THE REQUIREMENTS FOR FUTURE MILITARY ROBOTS SUPPORTING MOBILITY

Title in Czech:

POŽADAVKY NA BUDOUCÍ VOJENSKÉ ROBOTY PODPORUJÍCÍ MOBILITU

Type:

Article

Author(s):

Michal KOPULETÝ, Ota ROLENEC

Language:

English

Abstract:

English/Czech

Journal:

Obrana a strategie

Publisher:

University of Defence

ISSN:

ISSN 1214-6463 (print) and ISSN 1802-7199 (on- line)

DOI:

10.3849/1802-7199.17.2017.01.099-118

Issue:

Volume 17, Number 1 (June 2017)

Pages:

099-118

Received:

31.03.2017

Accepted:

21.04.2017

Published online:

15.06.2017

Vytvořeno 15.7.2017 12:02:27 | přečteno 3041x | Frank

Diskuze

Do diskuze zatím nikdo nepřispěl.