This All-Electric Robotic Combat Vehicle May Accompany Army Units into Battle

A team made up of Textron Systems, Howe & Howe and FLIR Systems, Inc. is debuting the new Ripsaw M5 unmanned vehicle it intends to offer for the U.S. Army’s Robotic Combat Vehicle effort at the 2019 Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting. (Courtesy Textron)
A team made up of Textron Systems, Howe & Howe and FLIR Systems, Inc. debuted the Ripsaw M5 unmanned vehicle at the 2019 Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting. (Courtesy Textron)

Textron Systems announced Thursday that it will deliver an all-electric version of its M5 Ripsaw Robotic Combat Vehicle prototype to the U.S. Army for experimentation next year.

Earlier this year, the Army selected a Textron team to develop its subsidiary Howe & Howe's unmanned vehicle for the service's Robotic Combat Vehicle, or RCV, Medium platform.

The Army wants to develop a light, medium and heavy version of the RCV to give commanders the option of sending unmanned vehicles into combat against enemy forces. The service selected QinetiQ North America to build four light versions of the RCV.

Textron is scheduled to deliver four prototypes of its 10-ton M5, which resembles a lightweight tank powered by diesel and hybrid electric motors, by the end of the year.

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The Army also recently selected Textron to deliver an all-electric M5 as the service moves closer to developing electric-powered tactical vehicles.

"It's a flat deck variant that we will be delivering for the all-electric version," Sara Willett, program director for ground robotics at Textron Systems, told reporters Thursday, describing how the all-electric M5 will not have a cannon turret like the standard M5.

Textron is scheduled to deliver the all-electric M5 sometime next spring, Willett said.

In September, Army Futures Command directed the Maneuver Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate at Fort Benning, Georgia, to begin developing requirements for electrifying the service's ground vehicles.

"One of the most exciting points of going all electric is the performance that we see," Michael Howe, senior vice president from Howe & Howe, told reporters.

The M5 is "astonishingly powerful" with two 900-horsepower hybrid electric motors and a diesel range extender, Howe said.

"This range extender is just a generator, so it goes into the vehicle itself and allows the vehicle to go ... to an extended range of out to 300 to 400 miles," he explained.

The all-electric flat-deck platform "didn't need a range extender for the scientific and military testing that [the Army] are doing with the vehicle," he added.

"Essentially, it has the same exact power," Howe said. "We are really on the precipice of seeing advancement in electric technologies throughout the military, and the M5 is the spear tip for this."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at

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