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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 January, 2005, 16:45 GMT
US plans 'robot troops' for Iraq
Machine-gun equipped robot

The US military is planning to deploy robots armed with machine-guns to wage war against insurgents in Iraq.

Eighteen of the 1m-high robots, equipped with cameras and operated by remote control, are going to Iraq this spring, the Associated Press reports.

The machine is based on a robot already used by the military to disable bombs.

Officials say the robot warrior is fast, accurate and will track and attack the enemy with relatively little risk to the lives of US soldiers.

Unlike its human counterparts, the armed robot does not require food, clothing, training, motivation or a pension.

When not needed in war, it can be mothballed in a warehouse.

However, the robot will rely on its human operator, remotely studying footage from its cameras, for the order to open fire.

According to Bob Quinn, a manager with Foster-Miller, the US-based company which worked with the military to develop the robot, the only difference for a soldier is that "his weapon is not at his shoulder, it's up to half a mile away".

Test of metal

The robot fighter has been named Swords, after the acronym for Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection Systems.

Robot soldier
Machine-gun equipped robot
Can be fitted with standard-issue M249 or M240 rifle
Has four cameras, night-vision and zoom lenses
Can travel over rocks and barbed wire
Batteries run for up to 4 hours at a time
Remote control unit has two joysticks and video screen
Costs $200,000 (106,757) per unit

It is based on the Talon robot, which is widely used by the military to disarm bombs.

A US officer who helped test the robot said it was a more accurate shot than the average soldier because it is mounted on a stable platform and takes aim electronically.

"It eliminates the majority of shooting errors you have," said Staff Sgt Santiago Tordillos.

Mr Quinn says there are plans to replace the computer screen, joysticks and keypad in the remote-control unit with a Gameboy-style controller and virtual-reality goggles.

The Foster-Miller company is owned by the QinetiQ Group, a joint venture between the UK's Ministry of Defence and US-based holding company, Carlyle Group.

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