An Australian company has come up with a clever solution for live-fire training—but when the robot uprising comes, we may regret it. Marathon Targets has developed human-like robots that soldiers can shoot with real bullets.
Each T40 robot consists of a camouflage-clad life-sized dummy, usually adorned with an AK-47 slung across its chest, mounted on top of a two- or four-wheeled robotic platform. According to Defense News, the robots stand 5'8" and weigh 500 pounds each. The bots are autonomous, programmed ahead of an exercise to simulate soldiers on guard duty, on patrol, or even just hanging around. They can be dressed as civilians and other bystanders, too.
The robots can be programmed to execute advanced maneuvers. Marathon's robo-soldiers can actively maneuver against troops, massing for attacks and performing flanking movements. This will prompt soldiers to apply infantry tactics on the fly, all while shooting live ammunition.
When a bullet finds its mark, the dummy falls backward on the platform to register the hit. The platform itself appears armored against 5.56-millimeter rounds fired by the likes of the M16A4, M4A1 carbine, , and . The robots even respond when other robots have been shot.
Using a simulated target that's doing just about everything but actually shooting at you adds to the realism of a shooting exercise. The use of live ammunition adds to the realism and creates what the company calls "combat stress inoculation." An example of this happens in the video above, when a soldier shoots at a charging T-40 robot, misses, and realizes he's run out of ammunition. The soldier keeps his cool, reloads his weapon and shoots again, stopping the robot in its tracks. This is not something that can be practiced with existing live-fire training systems.
According to Defense News, Marathon Targets were used at recent exercise at Fort Bliss. After a few hours of getting used to the robots, soldiers were able to hit the man-sized targets moving at running speed at distances of nearly a thousand feet.