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U.S. Marines with Tactical Training and Exercise Control Group, Marine Air- Ground Task Force Training Command and scientists with the Office of Naval Research conduct a proof-of-concept range for the Robotic Goat at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, Sept. 9, 2023. The goat can carry different payloads and was testing its ability to acquire and prosecute targets with the M72 Light Anti-Tank Weapon. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Justin J. Marty)

Twenty-Nine Palms, California. (November 12, 2023): We have heard a great deal about robotic dogs but the U.S. Marines have gone one better, a tactical “goat”. In this photo by Lance Cpl. Justin J. Marty, an M72 Light Anti-Tank Weapon mounted on a robotic platform fires at a target during an evaluation at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center. A concept developed by the Marine Tactical Training and Exercise Control Group, scientists with the Office of Naval Research hope to develop a system that carries both weapons and sensors for Marines to operate remotely.

Designed to support Marine ground forces, this robotic quadruped can carry different payloads and is designed to reduce the load of individual Marines. Instead of having a Marine handle the weapon system, the goat can acquire targets, release safety, and fire a missile, all done remotely.

Fielded in 1963, The M72 LAW weighs just 5.5 pounds and is still in use by multiple services. The weapon is light, cheap enough to discard after firing, and simple to use. Mounted on a robotic platform, the operator can use a video game like controller to  adjust an on-board camera. The driver can then fire the weapon from a safe distance and, if the unit survives, use its camera eye to view the damage.

This is particularly useful for urban combat where close quarter combat is most deadly. The ability to use the goat as both a scout and a weapon allows Marines to probe enemy positions without exposing themselves to excess danger.

Platforms like the goat are the future of robot-assisted combat systems.