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An unmanned U.K. Terrier engineering vehicle drops a fascine bundle into a tank trench during the Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Friday, April 6, 2018.
An unmanned U.K. Terrier engineering vehicle drops a fascine bundle into a tank trench during the Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Friday, April 6, 2018. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
An unmanned U.K. Terrier engineering vehicle drops a fascine bundle into a tank trench during the Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Friday, April 6, 2018.
An unmanned U.K. Terrier engineering vehicle drops a fascine bundle into a tank trench during the Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Friday, April 6, 2018. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
An unmanned U.K. Terrier engineering vehicle clears mines during the Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Friday, April 6, 2018.
An unmanned U.K. Terrier engineering vehicle clears mines during the Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Friday, April 6, 2018. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
Soldiers in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle cross a tank trench, which is bridged by an unmanned U.K. Terrier during the Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Friday, April 6, 2018.
Soldiers in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle cross a tank trench, which is bridged by an unmanned U.K. Terrier during the Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Friday, April 6, 2018. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
An unmanned M113 armored personnel carrier lays down smoke during the Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Friday, April 6, 2018.
An unmanned M113 armored personnel carrier lays down smoke during the Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Friday, April 6, 2018. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
An M1A2 Abrams tank is ready to provide supressing fire during the Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Friday, April 6, 2018.
An M1A2 Abrams tank is ready to provide supressing fire during the Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Friday, April 6, 2018. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
Spc. Brandon Burton, with the Army's 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, fits a chemical warfare detection device to an unmanned aerial system during the Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Friday, April 6, 2018.
Spc. Brandon Burton, with the Army's 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, fits a chemical warfare detection device to an unmanned aerial system during the Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Friday, April 6, 2018. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
Spc. Brandon Burton, with the Army's 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, reaches for an Instant Eye unmanned aerial system during the Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Friday, April 6, 2018.
Spc. Brandon Burton, with the Army's 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, reaches for an Instant Eye unmanned aerial system during the Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Friday, April 6, 2018. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — Humans took a backseat during a base exercise on Friday in which robots cleared obstacles for manned tanks and fighting vehicles.

U.S. and British troops participated in the Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration, during which several remote-controlled vehicles performed a task usually carried out by soldiers.

“We did a robotic breach today, which has never been done before. This is a historic moment,” said 1st Lt. Cody Rothschild, an officer with the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, currently on rotation in Europe. “This is a great step forward for the Army, and for robotics.”

The rotational armor brigade was the main armor element during the exercise. It provided suppressing fire with M1A2 Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, while remote-controlled U.K. Terrier engineering vehicles cleared a simulated minefield and bridged a tank trench.

Breaching enemy obstacles is one of the most dangerous tasks on a battlefield, said British Warrant Officer Robert Kemp.

“Any breach like this will have enemy weapons trained in on the area,” Kemp said. “Roboticizing breach operations takes away the risk of life and makes clearing enemy obstacles much safer.”

This is great news for the engineers who would otherwise be on the front lines of an assault.

“It keeps us safe from being out there like sitting ducks,” said Pvt. Jonathon Ramirez, an engineer with 2ABCT.

“As an engineer, this means a lot to me,” said 1st Lt. Felix Derosin, a platoon leader with the 2ABCT. “The casualty rate for a breach is expected to be 50 percent. Being able to take our guys away from that, and have some robots go in there, is a very positive thing for us. In the future, this can save engineers’ lives.”

The Terriers were controlled by British soldiers several hundred feet away, inside U.S. Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

Besides the Terriers, the troops used other roboticized systems, such as an unmanned M113 armored personnel carrier, to deliver walls of thick, white smoke to help cloak the breaching operation.

The drill also employed several models of drones, including the Puma Unmanned Aerial System to gather intelligence and the Instant Eye UAS to search for possible chemical weapons.

Though troops have been utilizing unmanned vehicles, especially drones, for decades, the use of the robotic systems at the demonstration was new to most of the troops involved.

“When I first came in, I didn’t expect to be seeing robots doing (combat operations) like this. Being able to see it, eyes on, shows me what the future is going to be like, and it’s pretty good,” Derosin said.

egnash.martin@stripes.com Twitter: @Marty_Stripes

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