Human Machine Integration is optimizing how the Army is incorporating new technologies into formations to produce next-generation warfighting capabilities. Speed is key as new machine and robot systems are created daily.
To further plan leveraging advanced machines to offload tactical risk to Soldiers, minimize cognitive load, and integrate robots into Army formations, Army Futures Command, Training and Doctrine Command, and the Maneuver Center of Excellence hosted the second Human Machine Integration Summit, Oct. 17-19 here.
“My intent, first thing, is formations. Building platoons is mandatory,” said Gen. James E. Rainey, AFC commanding general. “We’re going to build an infantry and armor platoon comprised of humans, manned vehicles, robots, and payloads,” he said, adding that the desired outcome is to explore best practices for all elements to work together.
“We’re already integrating systems in training with things like small UAS,” said summit host, Maj. Gen. Curtis A. Buzzard, MCoE commanding general and Fort Moore senior commander.
Buzzard urged participants to consider all aspects of technology integration, such as training that new systems will require and their integration into points of instruction.
“You need to use an operational lens,” Buzzard said. “We must ask, ‘how will this work within our formations’.”
The key to addressing the issue of integrating robotics into Army formations may lay in advice given by Rainey, “Think big, start small, go fast.” His goal: integrating existing robots at the platoon level by the end of the fiscal year.
“First contact with the enemy should not be made in blood,” Rainey said, adding that “current technology provides the capabilities now to ensure first contact with the enemy is made with sensors, (and) unmanned aerial systems.”
“Technology will punish unskilled units and commanders,” Rainey said, warning skeptics who question technology’s place on the battlefield. The inverse is also true, he said, emphasizing the importance of the ways and means machines are integrated into formations.
Robotic systems with potential value to platoon-sized elements and individual warfighters exist today. They include sensors capable of seeing the enemy before the enemy sees friendly forces. They include ground robots capable of carrying lethal payloads to help ensure blood is not traded for first contact with the enemy. And even include systems that could deliver resupply and retrieve the wounded.
These systems were showcased to great effect during a demonstration by the MCoE Experimental Company, 1st Battalion, 29 Infantry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade.
“What we did here today was really to help cast a vision for the Army in terms of where robotics and human integration is going on the battlefield. What we really got after was showing people, this is what’s coming,” said Capt. Tim Young, Experimental Company commander.
“We demonstrated how a forward line of UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) sensors can be deployed and supported by a forward line of armed robotics, all ahead of the forward line of troops,” Young said. “That way we’re sensing early on in the battlefield, we’re engaging with robots making sure we don’t shed human blood for first contact, and then we’re bringing in troops to finish the fight.”
Applying an HMI lens to future force planning enables the Army to combine the adaptability and intuition of humans with the precision and speed of state-of-the-art machines — all while ensuring humans remain responsible for critical decision-making on the battlefield, Buzzard said.
“We want to drive capability development from a coherent perspective and how we will fight the fight,” Buzzard said. “If we wait for the perfect solution, we’ll never field capabilities at the speed of relevancy.”
“Don’t let the quest for what’s possible blind us from what’s doable,” Rainey said. “I urge you to focus on what we can do right now.”
For those worried about a Terminator movie scenario resulting from the incorporation of machines on the battlefield, Rainey's remarks put those concerns to rest.
“No robot will ever exercise the art of command. Our number one asymmetric advantage is people,” he said.