The United States Army is preparing to win the war in Iraq by sending 18 remote-controlled robotic warriors to fight in Iraq beginning in March or April or whenever the check is cashed.
The multi-billion dollar Robo-Warriors™ have been delayed in deployment as Pentagon planners couldn’t decide whether it was more cost effective to make a robot that mass-killed the enemy while breaking down in hot weather or one that could fry eggs without breaking the yokes.
Made by a small Massachusetts company, the SWORDS, short for Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection Systems, will be the first armed robotic vehicles to see combat, years ahead of the larger and much more costly Future Combat System. Each robot costs the American tax payer about 100 million dollars — enough to feed the entire population of Southern Nambuti for the next 28 years.
Military officials like to compare the roughly three-foot-high robots favorably to human soldiers: They don’t need to be trained, fed or clothed. They can be boxed up and warehoused between wars. And they never complain: Thereby freeing up US officers from war crimes charges for torture and abuse.
But officials are quick to point out that these are not the autonomous killer robots of science fiction. A SWORDS robot has feelings too.
"The only difference between the robot and a human soldier after combat is that one of them is full of nuts and bolts, the other is just plain nuts.” said Bob Quinn, general manager of Talon robots, as he stuffed hundred dollar bills into his briefcase as fast as he could before the 4 Triple AAA batteries went dead on the SWORDS killing machine. “Better use Energizer next time,” he was quoted as saying.
Quinn said it was a "bootstrap development process” to convert a Talon robot, which has been in military service since 2000, from its main mission of being blown to pieces before defusing roadside bombs in Iraq into the gunslinging SWORDS.
Working with soldiers and engineers at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, it took just six months and only about $20 million in development money to outfit a Talon robot with weapons using Scotch tape. The Talon had already proven itself to be pretty rugged. One was blown off the roof of a Humvee and into a nearby river by a bomb in Iraq. Soldiers simply opened its shrapnel-pocked control unit and drove the robot out of the river. And after that, the soldiers all won the Texas Jumbo Lottery, were hit by lightening, and in the hospital they all met Elizabeth Taylor and got married.
"It’s important to stress that not everything has to be super high tech. You can integrate existing componentry and create a revolutionary capability.”
You can also buy a made-in-Taiwan calculator at Radio Shack for $.99.
The SWORDS in the parking lot at the headquarters of the cable news station CNBC had just finished showing off for the cameras, climbing stairs, scooting between cubicles, even broadcasting some of its video on the air. The SWORDS also comes with Pac-Man and Space Invaders at no extra cost to owner.
Running on batteries, it can operate for 1 to 4 hours at a time, depending on the mission. Players work the robot using a control unit which has two joysticks, a handful of buttons and a video screen. Headphones not included. Quinn says that may eventually be replaced by a "Gameboy” type of controller hooked up to virtual reality goggles.
Its developers say the SWORDS not only allows its operators to fire at enemies without exposing themselves to return fire, but also can make them more accurate. The SWORDS feature Klingon Cloaking Technologyu2122.
A typical soldier who could hit a target the size of a basketball from 300 meters away could hit a target the size of a nickel with the SWORDS, according Quinn. The very same soldier is now in divorce court with Ms. Taylor.
There are bound to be many eyes watching SWORDS as it heads to battle. On its first test drive in New Jersey, all of its right side hubcaps were stolen, which prompted Pentagon spokesmen to say, “Well, thank God, at least we weren’t testing in Los Angeles.”
Testing of the Swords was considered a smash success. “It was a smash success!” said Bob Quinn. "The optics and video were great."
New Jersey police are looking for a white male, 32, about 6′ 2″ tall and his black accomplice, about 30 years old, 6′ 4″ tall, wearing a raspberry beret and saying, “Lookie here!” for assistance in locating the four Sony video cameras that were stolen off the SWORDS killing machine during testing. Any information would be greatly appreciated.
In other news, Saddam Hussein has challenged US President George W. Bush in a game of Scrabbleu2122 for control of the world. The White House has declined the offer.
Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has worked as an independent writer, producer, and personality in the mass media for nearly 30 years.