These combat machines or Special Weapons Observation Remote Reconnaissance Direct Action Systems (SWORDS) were delivered to Iraq in this April and began service in the 3-rd Brigade of the 3-rd Infantry Division. It took more than three years to develop and produce the robots. In this June the SWORDS were officially commissioned for the combat use.
The particular areas of their use and assigned missions are strictly classified. According to the official sources, the SWORDS were not yet engaged in clashes with Iraqi combatants. However, they are already actively used for reconnaissance and patrol in the streets of dangerous areas.
It is expected that the robots are to be sent to “the areas of evaluated risk”, e.g. to narrow streets where hostile snipers and fire units are allegedly ambush in the houses. These machines are to detect and neutralize these targets before soldiers arrive to the area.
The SWORDS are equipped with caterpillars to provide for high cross-country ability and agility, 5.56-mm machine gun M249 and observation, guidance and communication electronics. The robot is remote-controlled from a special console.
According to experts, the SWORDS is a modified version of a mine-sweeping robot used in Iraq for remote mine clearing. At that, specialists of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center in Picatinny (New Jersey) succeeded to remove the main shortcoming of the mine-sweeping model, i.e. delays in operator’s command execution.
The combat model fulfills only timely received commands. Any delayed commands (occurring rather often) are ignored by the robot as not actual. Besides, the SWORDS has a self-destruction feature in case of lost control of it.
The American military sources claim that currently there are only three such robots. Although the Army has already placed orders for 80 such machines, the necessary funds have not been allocated yet due to limited financing of the US Armed Forces in 2006-2007 fiscal years.
Michael Zeck, Manager of the SWORDS Project, says that US service men, who tested these machines in real Iraqi conditions, expressed their satisfaction and want to procure at least 20 robots. These robots are considered”a human life saving technology” that enables soldiers to avoid unnecessary risk, and radically reduce combat casualties. For the US Expeditionary Forces in Iraq this problem is extremely urgent as they already have lost more than 3000 killed and tens of thousands wounded.
According to independent military experts, the use of the first combat robots in Iraq may be a sign of impending military revolution. Already in foreseeable future, the armed forces of the leading world countries may receive various multifunctional combat robots and self-sufficient systems on the basis of the artificial intelligence that may take upon themselves the majority of missions currently fulfilled by human-beings and thus radically change the nature of the future war.