This is not a toy. Meet the ViPer, the newest weapon of the Israeli Defence Forces, a hunter-killer robot designed expressly for urban guerrilla warfare. It shoots a mini-Uzi or plants stun grenades. This deadly counterinsurgency gadget is the size of a vacuum cleaner and sniffs out bombs. According to Elbit Systems, the manufacturers, ViPer moves relentlessly on its treads "undeterred by stairs, rubble, dark alleys, caves or narrow tunnels". There's a videocam and some laser sensors on board, so IDF soldiers can aim it from a distance with considerable precision or program in electronically. The Elbit press release points out how the new ViPer could lower the risk to soldiers in hand-to-hand combat situations akin to last summer's streetfighting against Hizbullah.
Israel plans to deploy the VIPeR among its infantry units after field tests are done. The makers also hope to market this little robot to foreign police units or American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. If only it could negotiate as well, the ViPer would be like R2D2 on steroids, packing heat. No wonder scientists in Korea are trying to come up with a robot ethics code.
"What was science fiction until not so long ago is now becoming operational...tools that will create a revolution in counterterrorism," said an Israeli weaponry expert. A soldier can haul a ViPer to the battle in a backpack, because it weighs less than 5 pounds.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Air Force has a new Heron (Mahatz in Hebrew), a drone with a 50-foot wingspan, which can fly up to 30,000 feet high with a 550-pound payload. It can fly up to 30 hours without refueling and can be operated completely by remote. The large UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle in mili-speak) also can pinpoint the launch sites of missiles and is said to be able to launch air-to-surface missiles, eliminating targets as far away as Iran.
The Heron is considered cutting-edge and can carry a heavier payload than any other aerial drone. Israel already has rush orders to send Herons out to American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If the other side manages to gear up and fight with robots as well, perhaps there will only be civilian casulaties in future combat.