U.S. Army Showcases Autonomous Unmanned Rocket Launcher in Pioneering Live-Fire Exercise
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By Daniel Robinson*

In a significant advancement for military technology, the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Aviation & Missile Center, alongside the DEVCOM Ground Vehicle Systems Center and the Tennessee National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 181st Field Artillery Regiment, successfully demonstrated the capabilities of the Autonomous Multi-Domain Launcher (AML) in a live-fire exercise. This event, held approximately a month ago, showcased the future of autonomous military operations.

Live-Fire Exercise Details

The exercise featured the launch of three Reduced Range Practice Rockets (RRPR) in a ripple fire mission, a critical test that underscored the AML’s operational capabilities. In the two weeks leading up to this event, the team conducted extensive trials, firing three RRPRs at a time, totaling six launches at the Yuma Proving Ground. These preliminary tests were crucial for validating the AML’s diverse mobility modes, including teleoperations, waypoint navigation, and convoy operations.

During the exercise, the AML demonstrated its ability to move independently from a concealed location to a designated firing point, orient itself as directed, and execute fire control commands from a remote operator. This level of autonomy represents a significant leap in military technology, offering a glimpse into future warfare scenarios where human soldiers can be removed from direct combat roles.

Collaborative Effort and Human-Autonomous Integration

The demonstration was a testament to the collaboration between human operators and autonomous systems. Field Artillery Soldiers from the Tennessee National Guard executed all operations, while subject matter experts from DEVCOM AvMC and GVSC collected vital feedback to inform future AML designs.

Lucas Hunter, AML project manager for DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, emphasized the breakthrough this demonstration represents: “The DEVCOM AvMC/GVSC AML team has succeeded in proving the possibility of using remote, autonomous technologies to deliver Long-Range Precision Fires. This opens the possibility of increasing firepower without major force structure adjustments and risk to our Soldiers.”

Technical and Tactical Innovations

The successful event at Yuma Proving Ground validated the integration of autonomous technology into a modified High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launcher. This achievement marks a milestone for the AML, positioning it for further trials and integration into military exercises such as Valiant Shield ’24.

Maj. Michael S. Lowry, executive officer of the 1-181st Field Artillery battalion, highlighted the significance of this development: “Our Soldiers and the Tennessee National Guard are grateful for the opportunity to see the developments of the AML program and provide feedback to shape the future of long-range precision fires. To be able to follow the AML project over the past four years from inception to operating in a tactical environment is a unique experience for a National Guard HIMARS Battalion.”

The launcher chiefs involved in the training and live fire exercises quickly recognized the potential of the AML to augment current force structures and increase combat effectiveness. Their feedback is crucial for the continuous improvement of the system.

Alignment with Army Modernization Strategy

The AML concept is in alignment with the Army Modernization Strategy, which focuses on integrating robotics and autonomous systems to enhance combat lethality. The autonomous, unmanned, and highly mobile launcher, which can be transported via C-130 aircraft, promises to significantly boost firepower with additional launcher platforms and increased magazine capacity without requiring additional personnel.

Brig. Gen. Rory Crooks, director of the Long Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team, stated, “We are skillfully integrating humans and machines into formations that optimize the natural advantages that both bring. Our collective efforts allow humans to determine how to best utilize terrain to accomplish the fire support mission while offloading burdens and risk of executing them to machines.”

Future Prospects

With the AML program set to transition to the LRPF CFT and their ASA (ALT) partners starting in Fiscal Year 2025, the successful live fire demonstration underscores the Army’s commitment to advancing warfighter capabilities through innovative technologies. This collaborative effort with the warfighter and industry partners signals a future where autonomous systems play a critical role in military operations, reducing risks to soldiers while enhancing battlefield effectiveness.

*Daniel Robinson, a highly esteemed collaborator at Smartencyclopedia, specializes in the critical domains of national security, government affairs, country intelligence, military strategy, and intelligence operations. With an unwavering commitment to these fields, Daniel is a crucial asset to our platform.

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