Wednesday, July 17, 2024

US Army conducts airdrop test of its new robotic mule

U.S. airborne Soldiers recently conducted a drop test of the new unmanned ground vehicle, or “robotic pack mule,” which could be an increasingly common sight during future operations.

The new robotic, called the Small Multipurpose Equipment Transport (S-MET), is engineered to alleviate the burden from the dismounted Soldier, Squad, and Small Unit by shouldering additional supplies and crucial mission equipment. The system’s design incorporates Modular Mission Payloads (MMP), significantly augmenting combat effectiveness.

S-MET’s framework includes Interoperability Profile, Robotic Operating System-Military, and Joint Architecture for Unmanned Systems compliance, enabling seamless integration of future MMPs to enhance its capability. This adaptable architecture facilitates the assimilation of MMPs from the prime and other contractors who adhere to these standards, ensuring a robust, evolving system.


Under the supervision of the Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, a series of evaluations were carried out, including simulated airdrop impact tests. These tests aimed to ensure that the S-MET could endure the impact forces upon landing after low-velocity airdrops.

“The S-MET provides small, dismounted units the capability to generate power for organic electronic systems,” explained Mr. Jacob Boll, an operations research systems analyst with the Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate.

Following the successful completion of the simulated airdrop impact test, the S-MET underwent comprehensive rigging procedures in preparation for low-velocity airdrop operations.

Photo by Christopher O’Leary

“Testing targeted the evaluation of the operational effectiveness and suitability of the S-MET for low-velocity airdrop operations,” highlighted Boll, emphasizing its potential to alleviate physical burdens while operating in challenging terrains for extended durations.

This versatile system aligns with the mobility requirements of Infantry Brigade Combat Teams and reinforces the Army’s strategic vision to swiftly integrate Robotic and Autonomous Systems capabilities, aiming to mitigate risks faced by soldiers during combat scenarios.

A sequence of successful low-velocity airdrop trials ensued, each followed by operational exercises involving various maneuver drills. The data collected during these tests will be pivotal in informing Army leadership about the S-MET’s performance, facilitating critical decisions regarding its production.

Photo by James Finney

Prior to the airdrop operations, soldiers underwent comprehensive training on the S-MET. This training encompassed an in-depth overview of the vehicle’s instrumentation, controls, and tactical operations. The soldiers had the opportunity to witness the S-MET’s adaptability in negotiating various terrain profiles, fostering familiarity and operational readiness.

Operational testing, emphasized Shonda Strother, chief editor of the Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, presents an invaluable opportunity for soldiers and leaders to engage with, work on, and provide insights into equipment that will directly impact the future readiness of combat systems.

Photo by Michael Zigmond

“Operational testing is the U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s opportunity to contribute to readiness,” highlighted Lt. Col. Derek Johnson, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate test division chief, underscoring the pivotal role of these evaluations in ensuring the army’s preparedness to effectively confront and triumph in national conflicts.

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Executive Editor

About author:

Dylan Malyasov
Dylan Malyasov
Dylan Malyasov is the editor-in-chief of Defence Blog. He is a journalist, an accredited defense advisor, and a consultant. His background as a defense advisor and consultant adds a unique perspective to his journalistic endeavors, ensuring that his reporting is well-informed and authoritative. read more



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