Three targets appeared in front of the marine as he lay in the prone unsupported position at the small arms range. Two darted from one building towards another thirty meters away. The third charged straight for him. He shot that one first and then then other two before they reached the cover of the other building. Sound like something out of a sci-fi novel? Yes, it does. But it’s now also reality, with the U.S. Marine Corps beginning to train with autonomous targets.
The Marine Corps released a video (see above) in early April showing marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C. shooting at moving, human-shaped targets. The targets’ mobility comes from being mounted on small, wheeled vehicles.
And if the title of the video is accurate, humans weren’t remotely controlling them. Rather, the targets were reacting to what the marines were doing and otherwise operating independently based on their programming.
So it’s kind of like what you used to only read about in a science fiction story.
The use of autonomous vehicles isn’t new for the U.S. armed forces. In fact, they are arguably testing bigger autonomous projects right now.
Back in late February, the U.S. Navy released a video showing how sailors with Naval Special Warfare are training with autonomous aerial vehicles “to leverage battle space superiority while reducing risk to SOF personnel.”
And in December, the Navy released footage of it testing its Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System (AACUS). In other words, a self-flying (full size) helicopter.
Automation and artificial intelligence are forecasted to play a big role in future military operations. And with autonomous targets for live-fire training events, pilotless drones, and self-flying helicopters already being tested, it looks like that forecast is a high-confidence one.