What’s better than an autonomous, 10-ton, diesel-electric tank that can hit off-road speeds of up to 25 miles an hour? Probably one that also features a remotely operated 30-millimeter cannon and 7.62-millimeter automatic machine gun.
That’s what the U.S. Army is currently putting through its paces as part of its Robotic Combat Vehicle-Medium program, which also falls under its Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Function Team.
Built via a partnership between Textron Systems and Howe & Howe, the Army took receipt of four RCV-M prototypes — better known as Ripsaws — earlier this year. Testing is set to continue into the fall.
Ideally, armed with promising test data, the Army plans to seek over $84 million from Congress to continue development across the Robot Control Vehicle platform.
First unveiled about three years ago, the Ripsaw’s autonomous functionality would ideally allow it to be sent in ahead of soldiers to provide data on the terrain, identify any chemical agents or weapons systems, seek out potential ambush locations, and clear out small-unit enemy positions.
All of these applications would obviously play a key role in ensuring safer troop movement, and in capturing more intel for operational planning.
Adding to the Ripsaw’s recon features is the ability to deploy drones that, according to a report on TaskandPurpose.com, were produced by FLIR systems and capable of delivering 360-degree, high-quality video feeds on the surrounding environment.
A Kongsberg Defense Systems Protector turret serves as the remote-control platform for the aforementioned cannon and machine gun.
Additional add-ons that are under consideration include the XM813 Bushmaster chain gun (think of a cannon/machine gun hybrid), smoke grenades, retrofitting kits for amphibious operations, countermeasures for taking down enemy drones, and the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station, also known as CROWS, which features a Javelin anti-tank missile.
If the Ripsaw does eventually get the green light, U.S. soldiers won’t the be the first to reap its benefits. A stripped-down version of the vehicle has appeared in a number of films, including Fast and Furious 8: Fate of the Furious.