<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> WorldTribune.com: Mobile Rogue combat robots sidelined in Iraq

Rogue combat robots sidelined in Iraq

Tuesday, June 3, 2008 Free Headline Alerts

WASHINGTON Al Qaida-aligned insurgents in Iraq claim to have "decoded" U.S. military robots, but U.S. sources said the combat robots had malfunctioned in the heat of battle.

A statement by Al Qaida supporters on May 7 asserted that the so-called Islamic warriors have formed engineering units that "decoded" U.S. military robots. The statement said the U.S. military, which designed the robots for urban combat, was forced to withdraw the robots from service.

In early 2008, U.S. Army program executive officer for ground forces Kevin Fahey acknowledged that SWORD had been withdrawn from service in Iraq. Fahey told a RoboBusiness conference that the robot, which contained an M249 light machine gun, failed to follow commands. At least three such failures were reported.

"The gun started moving when it was not intended to move," Fahey was quoted as saying.

The Jamestown Foundation said the Al Qaida claim, despite a U.S. Army decision to withdraw the combat robots, appears to have been groundless.

In a report, Jamestown, a consultant to the Defense Department, said Al Qaida and its supporters have failed to seize the robots, entitled Special Weapons Observation Remote Reconnaissance Direct Action System, manufactured by the Massachusetts-based Foster-Miller.

The unmanned ground vehicles, said to cost $250,000 per unit, were deployed in Iraq in June 2007. SWORD, three of which were deployed in Iraq, was said to be a variant of the Talon bomb-disposal robot of Foster-Miller.

"Robots have long been used for bomb disposal and reconnaissance, but combat-capable robots are an innovation that is being strongly pursued in Israel and the United States," Jamestown said. "The Iraqi mujahideen are unlikely to have actually been able to decode and reprogram the SWORD robots. Each system is equipped with deadly anti-tampering devices and there are no reports of Iraqi fighters capturing or even encountering any of the three active systems, each of which is now safely secured."

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