DARPA’s Squad X program is working to increase human and machine collaboration to push squad lethality to a larger battlespace

DARPA’s Squad X program, among others, is working on a number of ideas right now to increase human and machine collaboration at the lowest tactical level, including ground robots, small micro-drones, and trying to figure out how to push the squad situational awareness and lethality out to a large, large battlespace area.

And this is not as far away as you might think. The Army is — right now is kind of leading the way in manned and unmanned teaming with the Apache in the shadows, which is going on in the Army’s Aviation Restructure Initiative, which we think is exciting and kind of a leading indicator of where we need to go.

Automated driving seemed like the work of fiction not long ago, but there’s a race going on between big-tech companies and some of the larger auto makers who are looking to develop self-driving cars. So, in the not-too-distant future, squads are going to operate with robotic support, sapper robots, counter-mine robots, counter-sniper robots. And much of this technology is going to come from the commercial sector.

A sapper, also called pioneer or combat engineer, is a combatant or soldier who performs a variety of military engineering duties such as bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, demolitions, field defences and general construction, as well as road and airfield construction and repair.

  • Calling a variety of robotic close air support

Here was the Squad X presentation given to proposing companies.

Squad X Vision

• Extend and enhance the situational awareness of the rifle squad
• Provide small unit leaders with increased maneuver time and space
• Enable rifle squads to shape and dominate their battlespace

• Enable echelons platoon and below to maneuver distributed, while maintaining the ability to fight concentrated and mass effects
• Provide small unit leaders increased maneuver time and space, in order to allow them increased decision time and tactical flexibility

SXCT plans to explore four key technical areas:

  • Precision Engagement: Precisely engage threats out to 0.6 mile (1,000 meters), while maintaining compatibility with infantry weapon systems and without imposing weight or operational burdens that would negatively affect mission effectiveness
  • Non-Kinetic Engagement: Disrupt enemy command and control, communications and use of unmanned assets at a squad-relevant operational pace (walking with occasional bursts of speed)
  • Squad Sensing: Detect potential threats out to 0.6 mile (1,000 meters) at a squad-relevant operational pace
  • Squad Autonomy: Increase squad members’ real-time knowledge of their own and teammates’ locations to less than 20 feet (6 meters) in GPS-denied environments through collaboration with embedded unmanned air and ground systems

Precision Engagement

Desired solutions:
• Guided weapon technologies that enable the rifle squad to precisely engage known non-line-of-sight threats in their battlespace
• Examples: advanced 40mm grenade, micro-missile
• Continuous closed-loop guidance of a projectile to target or initial closed-loop guidance followed by accurate terminal engagement
• Effectively leveraging the networked squad: accurately localized squad members (manned and unmanned) and shared squad information
• Novel, launchable sensors (e.g., small unmanned aerial vehicles)
• Compatibility with current squad equipment
• Examples: M203/M320 grenade launchers, Picatinny Rail system

Specifically not desired:
• Developments in explosive payloads
• Evolutionary upgrades to existing rounds
• Solutions requiring excessive impulse forces on the Warfighter
• Open-loop ballistic guidance
• Developments that do not interface with infantry squad equipment