By Kris OsbornDecember 17, 2009
U.S. Army Chief of Staff GEN George Casey joined hundreds of football fans at the Dec. 12 Army-Navy game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., who stopped by Army equipment displays outside the stadium showcasing state-of-the-art and next-generation guns, vehicles, UAVs, and robots.
"Fans are excited. They like to see what the new technology is," said Thomas Banks, a TACOM engineer who stood by the 33-ton ambush-protected Buffalo vehicle.
The Buffalo MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) -- surrounded by slat armor---was joined by the most recent addition to the MRAP family, the 25,000 pound MRAP All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) which is now arriving in Afghanistan. Hundreds of football fans climbed into the M-ATV on display to get a feel for what soldiers now driving off-road in Afghanistan are experiencing. MRAPs and the lighter M-ATV variant are built with a V-shaped hull to protect soldiers from IED blasts.
The 30-pound cave-and-building clearing Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV) was a favorite among fans.
"I'm glad. This keeps the boys safer --- to bring a robot in to check an area out," said John Resin, a Vietnam veteran and Army football fan attending the game.
The Multi-Utility Logistics Equipment (MULE) vehicle--an autonomous robot engineered to navigate difficult terrain, haul gear and fire weapons -- also drew large crowds. One demonstrator MULE variant was outfitted with equipment for two-and-a-half infantry squads.
"This is an engineering evaluation unit. It is the proof of principle platform which allows us to demonstrate the ability to cross complex obstacles on the battlefield such as a Jersey barrier or a wide gap on the battlefield. It demonstrates the ability to do autonomous navigation," said U.S. Army MAJ Steven Thomas, assistant program manager for the MULE.
Another demonstrator MULE variant was outfitted with the weapons and sensors the robot will carry in the future; the MULE is slated to enter service in 2015.
"The Mission Equipment Package consists of the medium range electronic optic infra red sensor which allows the soldier to be able to see things day and night on the battlefield. The Javelin pods are used to engage enemy tanks on the battlefield. It also has an M240 machine gun which allows the soldier to engage dismounted enemy soldiers on the battlefield," said Thomas. "This is all controlled by what's known as a common controller. It has a screen on it which allows the soldier to be able to see everything [that the robot's sensors see] on the battlefield, so the soldier can make a decision whether he wants to engage or maneuver around something."
Thomas said many fans who stopped by hoped the MULE would soon be in service with soldiers.
"Everybody is very optimistic about it. They think it is relevant. They think it is something that the Army needs and they would like to see it out there," he said.
The vertical take-off, hover-and-stare Micro Air Vehicle UAV was also visited by football fans before the game.
"People are telling me the more unmanned stuff we can get on the battlefield, the better. I've been running through and giving them a demonstration--showing them the basic commands, telling them what it can do. They are pretty blown away by it," said U.S. Army specialist and UAS operator James Williams.
A Stryker vehicle, Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and Humvee were also on display at the stadium.