The Gahat booth at the ISDEF expo last week shows unmanned vehicles and robots. (photo: Seth Frantzman)
Israeli robots from the companies General Robotics and Gahat Robotics could be man’s best friend in future battlefields.
General Robotics makes the DOGO tactical robot and Pitbull, a remote weapon that can be put on an unmanned vehicle, such as Gahat’s unmanned ground vehicles. Gahat robotics showcased several of its models at ISDEF on Wednesday, Israel’s largest defense and homeland security expo.
At first glance, the Gahat robots look like regular all-terrain vehicles. That is because the vehicle base and wheels are from the Canadian company Argo ATV. This is the kind of thing you could be driving through the woods of Quebec. But in Israel it has been transformed into an eight-wheeled model and a four-wheeled model. One model has a 7.62 mm. machine gun on it, part of the General Robotics Pitbull system. The other is just a flat surface.
Sharon de-Beer, CEO of Gahat, showed a video of how unmanned vehicles can perform a variety of tasks. These ATVs, for instance, are amphibious. They can go across streams and aid in search and rescue.
“The next generation of war will be more robots and less soldiers,” says de-Beer. That means when special forces or infantry need to go into a village, they could have vehicles driving alongside them that don’t require people to drive them. If the soldiers get to a point where they want to investigate what’s behind a house, they can send in the robots. If the robotic vehicle gets shot, it’s not like losing a human life. The vehicles are equipped with optics, sensors, and can be accessorized with cameras and even missiles.
|“The next generation of war will be more robots and less soldiers.”|
De-Beer says that the unmanned vehicles on display could carry equipment weighing between 450 kg. and 1.3 tons. That means soldiers could put ordnance, ammunition, food or other things on them. They could also transport wounded. For many soldiers on a long-distance mission over days, carrying water is a hassle. Here the soldiers can walk along with a robot by their side carrying their water, like horses would have done for Napoleon’s army.
But the robots can also be equipped to be “warriors” as well, to shoot and conduct intelligence missions. For instance, they could be dropped into a battlefield or inserted from the sea to conduct reconnaissance. A helicopter could bring them in at night, drop them off and let the vehicles go into a village before a raid takes place. While one of the robots was diesel, the other two vehicles use batteries, which may be a limitation as to how long they can operate.
Gahat says that its unmanned vehicles can be controlled from a satellite. It is already in operation assisting fire departments, but in several years it could be used more by militaries.
|The DOGO, a portable, tactical combat robot produced by General Robotics, is already operational.|
The DOGO, designed by General Robotics, is already operational. The small DOGO tactical robot has a Glock 9 mm. that is inserted into the vehicle before it is deployed. It weighs around 10 kg. and can help counterterrorism units avoid friendly fire incidents and also reduce casualties by letting the robot go into a terrorist situation first.
At a recent demonstration with Shahar Gal, CEO of General Robotics, the robot compared its marksmanship with a human’s and performed equally. It is operated with a tablet-like computer and has a safety switch and triggers to operate the gun. It drives like any remote-control car, but it can also climb stairs and has eight cameras, giving the user 360 degrees of vision. I tried driving it and saw how user-friendly it is.
The DOGO is unique as the world’s first operational shooting robot. It is so small it can be easily stuffed in a backpack by special forces or counterterrorism forces. In a standoff, such as the Paris kosher deli siege in 2015 or Orlando nightclub shooting in 2016, a small shooting robot might have saved lives.
Between Gahat and DOGO, Israel’s robotics pioneers are showing what the future of war may look like. With countries increasingly facing complex threats where a modern conventional army has to fight terrorist groups, having robots can be beneficial because one has to operate in urban areas among civilians, or try to find terrorists who are hiding out in terrain they know better than the attacker.
Because special forces need numerous gadgets with various capabilities, such as small reconnaissance drones, the unmanned vehicles and robots can give them a new “arm” in their operations. Unsurprisingly, Israel, faced with so many complex challenges, has found a new way to fight old wars.
Seth Frantzman is The Jerusalem Post’s op-ed editor, a Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a founder of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.