WASHINGTON [MENL] -- Al Qaida-aligned insurgents in Iraq said they have
foiled operations by U.S. military robots.
A statement by Al Qaida supporters on May 7 asserted that the so-called
Islamic warriors have formed engineering units that "decoded" U.S. military
robots. The statement said the U.S. military, which designed the robots for
urban combat, was forced to withdraw the robots from service.
The Jamestown Foundation said the Al Qaida claim, despite a U.S. Army
decision to withdraw the combat robots, appears to have been groundless. In
a report, Jamestown, a consultant to the Defense Department, said Al Qaida
and its supporters have failed to seize the robots, entitled Special Weapons
Observation Remote Reconnaissance Direct Action System, manufactured by the
In early 2008, U.S. Army program executive officer for ground forces
Kevin Fahey acknowledged that SWORD had been withdrawn from service in Iraq.
Fahey told a RoboBusiness conference that the robot, which contained an M249
light machine gun, failed to follow commands. At least three such failures
"The gun started moving when it was not intended to move," Fahey was
quoted as saying.
The unmanned ground vehicles, said to cost $250,000 per unit, were
deployed in Iraq in June 2007. SWORD, three of which were deployed in Iraq,
was said to be a variant of the Talon bomb-disposal robot of Foster-Miller.
"Robots have long been used for bomb disposal and reconnaissance, but
combat-capable robots are an innovation that is being strongly pursued in
Israel and the United States," Jamestown said. "The Iraqi mujahideen are
unlikely to have actually been able to decode and reprogram the SWORD
robots. Each system is equipped with deadly anti-tampering devices and there
are no reports of Iraqi fighters capturing or even encountering any of the
three active systems, each of which is now safely secured."