Army completes RCV soldier experiment with rifle platoon

By Ethan Sterenfeld / November 30, 2020 at 3:46 PM

The Army completed a month-long soldier operational experiment of the Robotic Combat Vehicle-Light with a rifle platoon in mid-November, as the service continues to examine how the unmanned ground vehicles will integrate with ground combat formations.

Four RCV-Light "surrogates" were tested with a rifle platoon at Ft. Benning, according to a Nov. 30 Army announcement. The Army has called this four-vehicle fleet "Project Origin."

Soldiers conducted movements with and without the vehicles, to demonstrate the advantages the vehicles can provide. The vehicles proved to be more valuable than expected in defensive operations, according to the announcement.

The testing supported the plan to have the vehicles operate in tandem with soldiers, rather than as independent systems, said Maj. Cory Wallace, who leads the Robotic Combat Vehicle initiative within the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team.

During the test, soldiers "employed a tethered Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), a counter-UAS jammer, modular smoke obscuration module, a Commonly Remote Operated Weapon System (equipped with both a M240 machine gun and a Javelin), as well as an autonomous drive function," according to the Army's announcement.

The vehicles' next test will come in summer 2021 at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Ft. Polk, Louisiana, according to the announcement. There, the Army will "test how the vehicles could be integrated into the Opposing Force's force structure."

There are three planned versions of the Robotic Combat Vehicle: Light, Medium and Heavy. QinetiQ North America won a contract earlier this year to build four of the Light variant.

Over the summer, the Army conducted its first soldier operational experiment with other technologies from the Robotic Combat Vehicle family. At that time, the Army planned to decide in fiscal year 2023 whether to make the vehicle family a program of record.