ISIS

Iraqi Forces Debut ISIS-Hunting Remote Tank

'Al Robot' deploys with thermal-imaging gun and rockets.

Ben Sullivan

Ben Sullivan

Image: Media War Team

What's green, has four wheels, and brandishes a thermal optic gun? A brand new, ISIS-killing machine, called Al Robot (The Robot)—if you're in Iraq at least.

The country's Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU), also known as the People's Mobilization Forces, debuted its new offensive ground unit on November 1 against ISIS forces currently besieged near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. A PMU spokesperson told Motherboard that the deployment was a success, with the vehicle performing "better than anticipated."

Designed by two brothers from Baghdad, the unmanned [uncrewed] ground vehicle (UGV) has a remotely operated 12.7mm cannon equipped with thermal sights, as well as side-mounted Russian-made 70mm rockets.

"The combat robot is used in three primary missions," the PMU spokesperson told Motherboard. "Nighttime hunter missions, daytime combat missions and all-day support role for any troops requiring it. Hunter operations utilize the very high quality thermal optical camera on the robot to find ISIS targets at night. The target information can be given to either our designated sniper or relayed to Iraqi central command for Iraqi Air Force F16 strike or Mi-35 gunship strike with ATAKA guided missiles."

According to this news video from The Baghdad Post, Al Robot's cannon can be angled 45 degrees up or down, and has full 360-degree rotation. Two drivers command the beast—one for gunning and one for driving. Its rockets can also hit targets up to three kilometers away, said the PMU.

Motherboard was told that the PMU is planning to soon integrate guided anti-tank missiles onto the UGV, and that "all soldiers have felt safer with the robot deployed alongside as it offers exceptional capabilities without endangering our troops lives."

The vehicle resembles many similar designs of UGVs from militaries around the world. The US Army's Gladiator tactical vehicle has been in development for more than a decade now, and in June, an Israeli contractor introduced the RoBattle—"an unmanned, heavy duty, highly maneuverable combat and support robotic system"—says Israeli Aerospace Industries. There's also the imitable Legged Squad Support System from DARPA, but that was project was canned in 2015.

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