BAE Systems has announced a new robotic unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) that could assist future infantry units with tasks ranging from explosives ordnance disposal (EOD) to casualty evacuation (CASEVAC), and even target suppression. The robot, called “Ironclad”, comes in two variants, and is projected to have at least four modular equipment packages, including a machine gun installation, advanced sensor modules, robotic arm, and stretcher mounts.
The Ironclad robot is currently controlled via wireless tele-operation, but is expected to feature an autonomous function with no operator in future iterations. Unusually, the robot is armored with ARMOX high hardness steel, providing protection from shell fragments and small arms rounds. This armor gives the smaller version of the robot a weight of 200 kg (440 lb), but it is still able to carry payloads of 250 kg (550 lb), more than enough for ammunition, weapons, sensors, and manipulator arms. A larger variant has a carrying capacity of 500 kg (1100 lb), and is designed primarily for casualty evacuation. Perhaps most importantly, the Ironclad UGV is reportedly battery powered, making it potentially much quieter than internal combustion engine powered UGVs. Its battery reportedly gives the vehicle a projected range of 50 kilometers (31 miles).
Armored UGVs like Ironclad are likely to be the first wave of unmanned systems that work directly with ground units, including infantry. Russian firm Rosoboronexport is already developing its much larger armed Uran-9 “unmanned tank”, which is expected to be entering Russian Army service soon. It is tele-operated by a human, rather than autonomous.