WTF?! It appears that easily purchasable robot dogs are becoming an increasingly popular way of carrying and firing rocket launchers remotely. Even the US Marine Corps has realized the potential of this combination and has just shown off a proof-of-concept demonstration video.
As reported by The Warzone, members of the Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command's (MAGTFC) Tactical Training and Exercise Control group (TTECG), based at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms in California, tested the robot dog in September.
The demo, which also involved members of the US Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR), used a simple Chinese-made Unitree Go1 robot dog (or goat, as they call it), which can be bought from Amazon for around $5,000. The company's website offers an even cheaper version, the Go1 Air, for $2,700, along with a more advanced Go1 Pro for $3,500. For comparison, Boston Dynamics Spot initially went on sale in 2020 for $74,500.
The robotic quadruped is seen sporting an M72 infantry anti-armor rocket launcher in the video, which definitely lowers the cuteness factor. It also has a forward-facing GoPro camera and several rails that can hold extra cameras, aiming lasers, and other items of destruction.
The dog fired the weapon from a sitting position with two sandbags on either side of its body for safety with a steel bar behind it, but the robot appeared to handle the recoil from the 21mm rocket with ease.
"The bigger one, they actually put a goat head mask on it," the handler says. "And it's able to growl, bark, and even throw sirens."
That sounds mildly terrifying, and it seems one marine agreed: "Well, I guess there's a psychological aspect to it," he said.
"Instead of having a Marine handle the weapon system, manipulate the safeties, we could put a remote trigger mechanism on it that allowed it to all be done remotely," said Marine Corps 1st Lt. Aaron Safadi, the officer in charge of the emerging technology integration section within TTECG. "The Marine could be behind cover and concealment, the weapon system could go forward, and the Marine could manipulate the safeties from a safe place while allowing that weapon system to get closer to its target."
This isn't the first time we've seen robot dogs weaponized. In October 2021, SWORD International, which makes semi-automatic rifles, and Ghost Robotics partnered to add a Special Purpose Unmanned Rifle, or SPUR, to the latter's Quadrupedal Unmanned Ground Vehicle, or Q-UGV (below). The machine bore a striking resemblance to the metal creatures seen in the War of the Worlds TV show and the murderous dog robots from the Black Mirror episode Metalhead. And the one from Battlefield 2042, of course.
At Russia's Army 2022 expo last summer, the M-81 was on display, a canine-like quadrupedal robot carrying an RPG-26 on its back and dressed in a ninja-yoroi. The robot was likely a UnitreeYushuTechnologyDog, available from Chinese marketplace Alibaba for as little as $2,700.
Boston Dynamics was one of several robotics companies to sign an open letter last October asking people not to weaponize their robots. Spot is used within the armed forces, though its purpose is scouting and load carriage.