The Joystick Commando

Gun-slinging 'bots go to Iraq, but soldiers will call the shots

The Idea Man
Graham HawkeAmos Nachoum

A cross between a tank and a soldier, the latest feat of military husbandry makes Robocop look like Officer Friendly. Combining a lightweight robot built by military contractor Foster-Miller for reconnaissance in Bosnia with a remote-control machine-gun mount invented by Northern California engineer Graham Hawkes [see interview], this is the world's first land-based telepresent combat weapon–a deadly-accurate surrogate gunner that needs no sleep and will never come home in a casket. The Army calls it SWORDS (Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Direct-action System), and it will deploy 18 units for active duty in Iraq next month. Each $230,000 robot will tote standard-issue automatic rifles capable of firing up to 1,000 rounds a minute without flinching. "SWORDS won't replace soldiers, but it will aid them," says Foster-Miller project manager Dan Deguire.