The largest unmanned vehicle ever deployed with U.S. ground forces, the Lockheed Martin Squad Mission Support System leverages robotic technologies for unmanned transport and logistical support for light, early entry and special operations forces. It solves capability gaps by lightening the Soldier’s load and serving as a power management resource.
The SMSS will decrease the amount of time a Warfighter has to spend in controlling robotic systems by providing vehicles that can navigate autonomously. The SMSS’ supervised autonomy will provide the Warfighter with a reliable squad-size vehicle, which will improve combat readiness, while assuring re-supply channels and casualty evacuations.
Combining perception with extraordinary mobility allows vehicles to follow the Warfighter across most terrain, guaranteeing the payload the robotic system is carrying will be available whenever and wherever the Warfighter needs it. Few other robotic systems allow for autonomy dependable enough for a vehicle to follow someone without the use of location-disclosing beacons. The vehicle can also operate by remote control, tele-operation or by manual control.
SMSS received a U.S. Army contract in 2011 to deploy vehicles to Afghanistan, the first experiment of its kind with deployed troops, to see how autonomous robots can benefit the Warfighter. It previously served in Army experiments as a self-sustaining, portable power solution, including soldier battery recharge and logistics support for infantry.
By the end of 2011, the system’s dependable autonomous technology will have garnered six safety releases by the U.S. Army to work in close proximity around Soldiers. SMSS continues to log hundreds of hours with Army users as the system matures and is prepared for deployment:
- Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment, Spiral E, 2008
- Military Utility Assessment, Fort Benning, 2009
- Limited User Test – Portable Power, Ft. Riley, 2010
- Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment, Spiral G, 2011
- Military Utility Assessment, Afghanistan, 2011
The long-term vision of this system can accommodate armed variants, while improving its reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition capabilities within the concept of supervised autonomy. A squad-size manned or unmanned support vehicle is critical to today’s asymmetrical and urban battlefields.
Lockheed Martin’s experience in unmanned systems is unmatched with proven capabilities across all domains including air, land, sea and space. An integrated systems-of-systems approach allows Lockheed Martin to meet the challenges of network-centric warfare where both manned and unmanned technologies work collaboratively, increasing the affordability of the technology, the efficiency of the total force and ultimately, the success of their missions.