Pentagon shows off bomb-finding robots, other gadgets for war
August 14, 2005
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Pentagon showed off a variety of prototype gadgets Friday, including a robot designed to find roadside bombs.
The $8,000 “MARCBOT” robot has a long swivel arm and a camera that allows U.S. troops to examine animal carcasses and other possible bomb sites from a safe distance, said Army Col. Gregory N. Tubbs.
One such robot investigated 32 possible roadside bombs in the field, of which 26 turned out to be actual bombs, said Tubbs, director of the Rapid Equipping Force.
“Soldiers like them. They save lives,” said Tubbs, whose job is to get equipment to U.S. troops when the regular procurement system cannot keep pace with wartime needs.
The robots are an improvement over earlier versions, which had weaker swivel arms that tended to break off, Tubbs said.
Thirty of the robots are already in use in Iraq and Afghanistan and hundreds more will see action, Tubbs said.
Tubbs said he could not say which troops would get the robots and other equipment, or when they could expect the equipment. That decision will be made by commanders in the field, he said.
He said robots are part of the solution to roadside bombs, adding that there is no silver bullet to stop roadside bomb attacks.
Also Friday, Tubbs showed off a so-called “Toughbot,” a robot with a camera that troops can throw into a room to see if any enemies are inside.
The robots are supposed to be tougher than earlier versions that broke apart when someone threw them against a wall, Tubbs said.
Tubbs also demonstrated a device that translates English into Arabic.
“Do you have drugs?” Tubbs spoke into the device, whereupon it emitted an Arabic translation.
The device is programmed with more than 500 phrases that can be used in the field, he said.
Tubbs spoke of one soldier who has already benefited from using the translator.
“Now he can do in about 40 seconds what it took him about 40 minutes to pantomime,” Tubbs said.