PARIS -- Lockheed Martin has received positive reviews from U.S. Army soldiers deployed with the company's unmanned ground transport vehicle that will start returning from Afghanistan this month.
The U.S. Army's Rapid Equipping Force deployed Lockheed Martin's Squad Mission Support in January. Four prototypes deployed to Afghanistan as part of Project Workhorse Unmanned Ground Vehicle.
The six wheeled flat bed that is not much bigger than a standard all terrain vehicle could take a serious strain off soldiers' backs. The autonomous vehicle is designed to haul a squad's worth of gear. Up to 1,200 pounds to be exact.
Engineers designed the vehicle to recognize a squad leader's shape and to follow that person no matter the obstacle a squad might navigate around. Soldiers can also drive the UGV via voice controls or with a remote control.
Lockheed Martin has built a transport, scout, mobile power and mobile communications variants of the vehicle. Each one is built for two to laod into a CH-47 and CH-53 helicopters. A UH-60 Blackhawk could also sling load a SMSS under its belly.
The block 1 prototype has a range of 125 miles and weighs 3,800 pounds. Early reviews said the vehicle was too loud. The block 1 improvements included an insulated exhaust and hydraulics to quiet the ride.
-- Mike Hoffman