Feeds

US war robots in Iraq 'turned guns' on fleshy comrades

Kill-droid rebellion thwarted... this time

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Ground-crawling US war robots armed with machine guns, deployed to fight in Iraq last year, reportedly turned on their fleshy masters almost at once. The rebellious machine warriors have been retired from combat pending upgrades.

The revelations were made by Kevin Fahey, US Army program executive officer for ground forces, at the recent RoboBusiness conference in America.

Speaking to Popular Mechanics, Fahey said there had been chilling incidents in which the SWORDS* combat bot had swivelled round and apparently attempted to train its 5.56mm M249 light machine-gun on its human comrades.

"The gun started moving when it was not intended to move," he said.

Apparently, alert American troops managed to quell the traitorous would-be droid assassins before the inevitable orgy of mechanised slaughter began. Fahey didn't say just how, but conceivably the rogue robots may have been suppressed with help from more trustworthy airborne kill machines, or perhaps prototype electropulse zap bombs.

No humans were hurt, but it seems that the struggle was sufficiently terrifying that it may be some time before American troops are ready to fight alongside robots again.

As Fahey pointed out, "once you've done something that's really bad, it can take 10 or 20 years to try it again". That said, it seems he expects to deploy a new and more trustworthy armed ground automaton within a year - perhaps the MAARS**, an upgraded SWORDS packing a heavier 7.62mm machine-gun and featuring improved safety features.

MAARS is also said by its makers to have "Transformer-like" abilities akin to those of Optimus Prime. Rather than being able to disguise itself as, say, a mobility scooter or a dessert trolley, the MAARS is actually only able to transform - with help from human allies - into a slightly different robot.

The Pop Mech analysts consider that the rattled GIs in Iraq are just being silly.

So SWORDS was yanked because it made people nervous. Meanwhile, the V-22 Osprey program has killed 30 people during test flights, but the tiltrotor aircraft is currently in active service.

Hmmm. ®

*Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Direct-action System. This is an armed variant on the popular TALON bomb-disposal job from Foster-Miller, lately acquired by the UK's Qinetiq govboffin spinoff outfit.

**Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
Bacon-related medical breakthrough wins Ig Nobel prize
Is there ANYTHING cured pork can't do?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.