Infantry: The Armed Robots Speak Hebrew

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March 14, 2007: While the United States has used over a thousand infantry robots in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has resisted suggestions that some of the robots be armed. Israeli firm Elbit has gone ahead and developed a small robot, called Viper, that carries a 9mm machine pistol (an Uzi) and explosives, along with the usual video camera and microphones. Like the American proposals, the under fifty pound Viper, about the size of a large microwave oven, can be sent into caves, buildings or bunkers, to detect, and kill, enemy troops. The explosives can be armed and dropped off, while the Viper moves back. This is useful for destroying booby traps or roadside bombs, or blowing open locked doors. Actually, U.S. robots do this explosives deliverty trick, but arming the droids with automatic weapons is still a no-no.

The Viper is not a true robot, as it, and its weapons, are always under the control of a human operator. However, an autonomous kill droid would not be all that unique. Guided missiles are basically robots that seek out and destroy things on their own. During World War II, naval torpedoes were first fitted with sensors and control systems that allowed targets to be found and destroyed, automatically. But there's something about a small robotic vehicle, thinking for itself, and using weapons on anyone it decides is an enemy, that scares the hell out of people. It will be up to Israeli public opinion, more than anything else, to determine if Viper will be issued to the troops. That's how a democracy, especially one like Israels, works.

 


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