Previously deployed with the U.S. Army in Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan, Lockheed Martin’s Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) leverages robotic technologies for unmanned transport and logistical support for light, early entry and special operations forces. It solves capability gaps by lightening the Warfighter’s load, serving as a power management resource, and providing a versatile utility platform for various Mission Equipment Packages.
The SMSS decreases the amount of time a Warfighter has to spend controlling robotic systems by providing vehicles that can navigate autonomously. The SMSS’ supervised autonomy provides the Warfighter with a reliable squad-size vehicle, which improves combat readiness, helps assure tactical re-supply and can assist in casualty evacuations.
Combining perception and autonomous navigation with extraordinary mobility, power and tractive effort allows the SMSS to follow waypoint paths or a dismounted Soldier across most terrain, guaranteeing that the payload will be available whenever and wherever it is needed. Few other robotic systems incorporate autonomy that enables a vehicle to follow a person without the use of location-disclosing beacons or special markings or fiducials. The vehicle can also operate by remote control, tele-operation, tethered, or, in the case of emergencies or maintenance, by manual control.
SMSS received a U.S. Army contract in 2011 to deploy vehicles to Afghanistan, the first experiment of its kind with deployed troops, to see how autonomous robots can benefit the Warfighter. Lockheed Martin received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the Soldiers who used it, including requests to keep the machines in use beyond the end of the planned deployment. It previously served in Army experiments as a self-sustaining, portable power solution, including soldier battery recharge and logistics support for infantry.
By the end of 2011, the system’s dependable technology garnered six Safety Releases and a Safety Confirmation from the U.S. Army to work in close proximity around Soldiers. SMSS has logged hundreds of hours with various military users as the system matured:
- Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE), Spiral E, Fort Benning, 2008
- SMSS Military Utility Assessment (MUA), Fort Benning, 2009
- Nett Warrior Limited User Test (LUT) – Portable Power, Ft. Riley, 2010
- AEWE, Spiral G, Fort Benning, 2011
- Project Workhorse UGV, MUA, Afghanistan, 2011
- TARDEC Counter IED Capability Evaluation, Michigan Technical University, Keweenaw Research Center, 2012
- Dismounted Engineer Maneuver Support (DEMS) MUA, Fort Leonard Wood, 2012
- Camp Grayling Challenge – Controlled through SATCOM, 2012
- Robotics Limited Demonstration (RLD), Fort Benning, 2013
- Evaluation with United Arab Emirates Presidential Guard (Special Forces), UAE, 2013
- Assisted Carriage Exercise with the British Army, Salisbury Plain Training Area, UK, 2013
- Extending the Reach of the Warfighter Through Robotics (ERWR), Fort Benning, August 2014
- Controlled through SATCOM
- Carried by slingload under K-MAX autonomous helicopter
Unsurpassed Unmanned Capabilities
The long-term vision for the SMSS is a family of UGVs based on a common platform and a common autonomy kit with customer-specific Mission Equipment Packages within the concept of supervised autonomy. Variants could include Transport/Logistics, RSTA, Counter Mine/IED, Armed Direct Fire, Armed Indirect Fire (mortar), Site Shuttle (personnel and materiel), Site Security, Portable Power or Communications, Firefighting, CBRNE Detection and Monitoring, and Decontamination. A squad-size unmanned support vehicle is critical to today’s asymmetrical and urban battlefields.
Lockheed Martin’s experience in unmanned systems is unmatched with proven capabilities across all domains including air, land, sea and space. An integrated systems-of-systems approach allows Lockheed Martin to meet the challenges of network-centric warfare where both manned and unmanned technologies work collaboratively, increasing the affordability of the technology, the efficiency of the total force and, ultimately, the success of their missions.