The U.S. Army tested its new 8×8 unmanned Multi-Utility Tactical Transport (MUTT) vehicles fitted with a surveillance drone, Javelin anti-tank missile and an M4 rifle during an exercise held recently.
The MUTT underwent trials during Project Convergence 20, the Army Futures Command’s capstone exercise of an ambitious project of learning.
The robotic mule will follow a dismounted infantry Soldier carrying a wireless tether. In addition to its usefulness for lugging heavy gear, or even wounded Soldiers, an armed variant is outfitted with a Javelin anti-tank missile, a .50 caliber machine gun, and a M4 rifle.
"Dismounted Soldiers can only carry what’s on their back—now they have a ‘mule’ that can carry much heavier equipment, but that’s still small enough to not restrict their mobility in tight areas,” said Gerald Jung, mechanical engineer.
Perhaps the most interesting payload being evaluated was a tethered unmanned aerial system that can ascend 200 feet above the MUTT and serve a variety of purposes, including use as an electronic signal repeater, the Army said in a release last week.
“It can be used for reconnaissance, surveillance, or assessments of battle damage,” said Carlos Molina, test officer.
The MUTT can also be outfitted with other payloads: a screening obscuring module that delivers a smoke screen, chemical and biological agent detectors, and an ultra-low light night vision camera that produces full color images.
“You can see and make distinction of objects a lot easier when you have full color,” said Jung.
The testing at YPG across six weeks of Project Convergence’s capstone exercise subjected all of the systems to the most intense weather and terrain conditions the Sonoran Desert had to offer. The MUTT was put through its paces across rugged, steep, unimproved desert roads and trails fully exposed to the elements as evaluators collected performance data.
“We had several days that were in excess of 115 degrees,” said Jung. “That’s without the solar loading—once you put the sun on it, the temperature of the vehicle can exceed 140 degrees. Some of our equipment reached 160 degrees.”
Each MUTT is expected to be able to carry 1,000 pounds, operate for 60 miles in 72 hours, and run silently in the field to avoid detection by an adversary, all while being able to recharge Soldiers’ peripheral electronic gear like radios and night vision goggles with onboard power. YPG’s natural environment testing ensures this vital piece of equipment will work as expected wherever in the world it is called upon to serve.