Here’s the latest exciting — and unnerving — unmanned system to catch our eye: a 1.5-ton robot that shoots the ever-living crap out of things.
Oh, and the manufacturer, Northrop Grumman, most famous for building the B-2 stealth bomber, decided to call it MADSS, as in angry or insane. Perhaps they could’ve been a little more reassuring there.
Here at Breaking Defense, we love our robots. Robots that fight fires, robots that run faster than Usain Bolt, robots that grab obstacles and shove them out of the way, robots that you launch from a catapult and catch on a wire. But the “Mobile Armed Dismount Support System” is something else altogether. MADSS is designed to providing covering fire for foot soldiers — i.e. ones who have “dismounted” from their vehicles — with a variety of plug-and play weapons options, which range from the man-portable M240 machinegun in the video to the M-19 grenade launcher, the famous 0.50 caliber M2, and unspecified still bigger-bore weapons.
It’s crucial to realize that the robot doesn’t just drive around shooting stuff on its own: There’s a human being pulling the trigger, telling it where to aim, and when to shoot — if he lets it shoot at all. “NO auto fire!!!” emailed one Northrop tech when I asked whether the robot could choose to open fire on its own. That said, once the human sets the targets, MADSS can swing its gun back and forth to spray them with bullets all by itself. But that’s a far cry from the killer robots of science fiction: “No Terminators,” one Army officer told me when I asked him about the service’s future plans.