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UK acquires fleet of autonomous ground vehicles - why?

So DSTL have purchased a fleet of these vehicles in order to test and evaluate them;


To me this technology seems like a self licking lollipop for defence companies where they will provide solutions to something I’m unconvinced is a problem (I.e. the need to remove a driver from the resupply chain and therefor danger) which will then be tested, found wanting and then put through the design cycle for the next fleet of prototypes.

all the while spending more and more of the defence budget on a problem we seemed to have no problem solving 80 years ago.


If it’s not obvious yet I’m not much of a fan of this technology but I’m aware that I’m an ex-TA lance Jack/ engineer who doesn’t even work in defence so I’m open to the very real possibility that I’m missing something, so answers on a postcard please. Why are we spending money on this? Where do we see this technology taking us should it work? If we accept that soldiers die in war then what are the benefits over manned systems? Are the cost differences between manned and unmanned systems as significant as I imagine they are?

pretty of successful and intelligent people seem to think these are a great idea, so what am I missing?
 
all the while spending more and more of the defence budget on a problem we seemed to have no problem solving 80 years ago.
Its a step up from mules and horses ;-)
 
To save Army recruiting, retention and fitness problems.
 
infamy.jpg


To paraphrase KW - "Autonomy, autonomy, they've all got autonomy"

Cos it's sexy innit. And because its "unmanned" it'll save money, obviously.*

*Large parts of this may not be true......
 
View attachment 457087

To paraphrase KW - "Autonomy, autonomy, they've all got autonomy"

Cos it's sexy innit. And because its "unmanned" it'll save money, obviously.*

*Large parts of this may not be true......

it cant just be that. it cant. really?

who's signing off on this stuff?

the only way i could see this being worthy of development if if the idea is to use it as a stepping stone to other more capable platforms - maybe an unmanned MBT. removing the crew compartment could potentially provide a number of benefits.....but even that seems pretty thin
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
OTOH, does a load-carrier need to be manned?

There are lots of dull repetitive roles which used to employ some dull, repetitive people could be done by a drone of some decription - whether that drone has wheels or rotors.

Put it another way: if many of the roles undertaken by a Universal Carrier could have been accomplished without a driver/crew back in 1940, they probably would have been.

If this is a solution to everyone carrying everything everywhere, then crack on. It's about time.

It could well save a chunk of the medical costs associated with knackered backs, knees and shoulders.
 
There is also something about replacing human "mass"* with autonomous "mass". For instance, instead of advancing humans into contact, you could advance a series of autonomous vehicles into contact to locate the enemy and allow the humans to fight differently...


*and I don't mean fat, knackered, cold war warriors...
 

Yokel

LE
Surely it makes sense for DSTL and MOD as a whole to explore and investigate new technologies? Some of them could do routine tasks and save manpower better used elsewhere, and you never know what technical developments might result from experiments - sensors, communications, artificial intelligence, materials, etc.
 

Bubbles_Barker

LE
Book Reviewer
OTOH, does a load-carrier need to be manned?

There are lots of dull repetitive roles which used to employ some dull, repetitive people could be done by a drone of some decription - whether that drone has wheels or rotors.
That's a terrible thing to say about the infantry!
 

Bubbles_Barker

LE
Book Reviewer
I was on a DSTL supply chain autonomy workshop the other day.

It's all about removing expensive people and saving money (natch). I'm not convinced the last tactical mile is a good place for vulnerable high tech soft skins but there we are.
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
I was on a DSTL supply chain autonomy workshop the other day.

It's all about removing expensive people and saving money (natch). I'm not convinced the last tactical mile is a good place for vulnerable high tech soft skins but there we are.
I’d agree. But I’d rather only hump something a mile than five or 10*.



*This does not include some of the fine specimens on the Redheads thread.
 

Bubbles_Barker

LE
Book Reviewer
:-D

I was thinking about some budgie-with-a-mirror posters on here.

No names, no pack drill blankets stacked.
I agree with your point re stackers. Stick with the Trogs...
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
More seriously, you wouldn’t try to take a Universal Carrier that last tactical mile. The buggers were noisy. But people are crying out for them on these threads.

I still see room for a version of Stormer. CVR(T), tractors and trailers did many a trog a favour in the Falklands, for instance. But, if something needn’t be manned then crack on.
 

Bubbles_Barker

LE
Book Reviewer
I’d agree. But I’d rather only hump something a mile than five or 10*.



*This does not include some of the fine specimens on the Redheads thread.
I don't think the real drive is to help out the infantry - it's more about removing drivers from A1, A2, B and 2nd Line transport.

"What is a soldier for Daddy?"

"To hang things from my son"
 
OTOH, does a load-carrier need to be manned?

There are lots of dull repetitive roles which used to employ some dull, repetitive people could be done by a drone of some decription - whether that drone has wheels or rotors.

Put it another way: if many of the roles undertaken by a Universal Carrier could have been accomplished without a driver/crew back in 1940, they probably would have been.

If this is a solution to everyone carrying everything everywhere, then crack on. It's about time.

It could well save a chunk of the medical costs associated with knackered backs, knees and shoulders.

my main issue is cost, if you can show me an unmanned solution which is cost neutral (this is dangerous because who determines what is and isnt a cost) then i'm onboard, but at the moment it looks like something which will cost more than a manned solution, be less capable, and be more complex (and therefor consume more resources and be more difficult to sustain in the field). i just dont see the benefit.

also, what are the additional benefits of having some of those dull repetitive people? for instance, loading/unloading the vehicle.

my worry is that this is something which has spawned from a period of highly politicized wars where the key military objective is to reduce casualties. i can see how this does that, but i dont see how it makes the army more combat effective. to look at it from a historical point of view we seem to be doing modern versions of wonder weapons rather than sten guns*




*which along with the UC is the other thing i keep harping on about, apologies to all for the repetition
 
There is also something about replacing human "mass"* with autonomous "mass". For instance, instead of advancing humans into contact, you could advance a series of autonomous vehicles into contact to locate the enemy and allow the humans to fight differently...


*and I don't mean fat, knackered, cold war warriors...


that i can understand, what we seem to be talking about here is a £1M water bowser
 
Surely it makes sense for DSTL and MOD as a whole to explore and investigate new technologies? Some of them could do routine tasks and save manpower better used elsewhere, and you never know what technical developments might result from experiments - sensors, communications, artificial intelligence, materials, etc.

as i said in the OP, i cant just about stretch to that argument, but this seems like a very specific set of prototypes looking at one problem rather than a test bed for a wide array of testing
 
I was on a DSTL supply chain autonomy workshop the other day.

It's all about removing expensive people and saving money (natch). I'm not convinced the last tactical mile is a good place for vulnerable high tech soft skins but there we are.

i'll assume they're smarter than i am but this doesnt add up to me. very happy to be wrong.
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
my main issue is cost, if you can show me an unmanned solution which is cost neutral (this is dangerous because who determines what is and isnt a cost) then i'm onboard, but at the moment it looks like something which will cost more than a manned solution, be less capable, and be more complex (and therefor consume more resources and be more difficult to sustain in the field). i just dont see the benefit.

also, what are the additional benefits of having some of those dull repetitive people? for instance, loading/unloading the vehicle.

my worry is that this is something which has spawned from a period of highly politicized wars where the key military objective is to reduce casualties. i can see how this does that, but i dont see how it makes the army more combat effective. to look at it from a historical point of view we seem to be doing modern versions of wonder weapons rather than sten guns*




*which along with the UC is the other thing i keep harping on about, apologies to all for the repetition
The currently absent Magic_Mushroom has made the point that UAVs still require significant logistical support and that 'unmanned' is a bit of a misnomer. It's really only unmanned at the sharp end. But politicians only see the sharp end.

Inevitably an unmanned ground vehicle will cost more per unit because there's a technology element. That's not in dispute.

What trials do is determine how much technology is needed, what it might cost to procure, and how that can potentially be minimised by not over-gilding the lily. Also, how can it be made more robust/more capable over time?

Other costs? Ok. Take the lifecycle. A few years back, a civilian friend asked me why the army's new side-arm cost so much by comparison with buying a few Saturday Night Specials from Walmart. He got it once I explained that the full price of training support and maintenance over several decades was included in the 'per-pistol' price.

The logistics fleet might not last as long in service as some of our AFVs (some of which - yikes - are a lot older even than me) but let's go with, say, five years. What's the five-year cost of training, equipping (uniforms and personal equipment, food, other consumables) and accommodating the driver? What if he/she has a partner on the patch who needs housing? All that's a 'cost' and one which is reasonably connectable/attributable.

Can the technology which is used for guidance be swapped out into a new chassis once the old is worn out or declared u/s? Probably.

And yes, there's also the consideration in asymmetric warfare of casualties. We don't have that echelon running all the way back through the Netherlands that we had in BAOR. If the donkey-wallopers don't have to take casualties en route then that's a win in all respects. Not just politically. Someone not dying gets my nod.

In terms of the blanket-stacking element, you'll still need them - just fewer of them. That's inevitable with automation. A lot of warehousing is now more automated, and a lot of materials handling now has a much-reduced manual element. So, loading at the near end is done per warehousing. At the far end, maybe something like a mini-DROPS. It's not beyond people to break open a few pallets.

Ultimately, I can see this saving money. I'm good with that. We don't have enough.

If it reduces the head count - well, we're already having recruitment problems.

And here's another thing: whenever cuts are mooted, it's the teeth arms which get the most love/outrage from the press. It's led to an unbalanced army. If this balances things up, because we can keep well-supported teethe arms (which, after all, is what it's all about) it's another win.
 
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