What’s the latest in the Marine Corps arsenal?

Meet LS3 – the Legged Squad Support System. It is a robotic mule concept that has taken five years for Boston Dynamics to develop and $2 million to finally produce.

Control And Field Testing Of LS3
As a robotic mule, LS3 has the capability to traverse rugged terrain while carrying much of the Marines’ load. It is designed and programmed to follow an operator and detect and maneuver around large terrain objects.

This robot is now at the Kahuku Training Area for control and field testing by five young Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, India Company.

Marine Corps Warfighting Lab Overseeing LS3 Testing
Named “Cujo” the LS3 testing is being observed by the Warfighting Lab of the Marine Corps during the Advanced Warfighting Experiment which is part of the military multilateral training event, “Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014”, that features 22 nations and about 25,000 spectators. Before Lance Cpl. Brandon Dieckmann joined the infantry, he had watched video clips of LS3 on YouTube. He never expected to be chosen as the robot’s operator.

Navigating Difficult Terrain With Ease
“Cujo” was used by the Marines to conduct resupply missions to several platoons around the training area. “Cujo” brought water to service members located in terrain that even all-terrain vehicles with military amplified loudspeakers would find difficult to navigate.

Dieckmann said he was surprised to see how well the LS3 works in difficult terrain conditions. It didn’t stumble or lose its footing. Instead, “Cujo” has actually proven to be very reliable and utterly rugged. Its only observed difficulty was negotiating contours of hills and obliqués.

Cujo: Logistical And Not A Tactical Tool
Currently in use as a logistical tool during the RIMPAC 2014 and not as a tactical tool because of the loud noise it generates when moving and when traversing difficult terrains, “Cujo” is pretty much still in the process of development in order to perfect the areas that need enhancements.

While it had shown to have successfully covered 70% to 80% of the terrain in the training area, “Cujo” needs further tweaking especially in preventing it from falling or rolling over, though most of the time, it got back up on its own. In cases when it didn’t get up on its own, only one person is needed to roll it back over. There is also the specification on creating more space for equipment such as heavy weapon systems, as it would be beneficial for quicker movement in a combat field.

Simple And Easy To Learn LS 3 Operations
Some of the Marines that have gotten to operate “Cujo” have grown sort of attached to the LS3. An infantryman from India Company, Pfc. Huberth Duarte, operates “Cujo” and he said that the robotic mule has become like a dog friend to him. He finds operating the robotic mule easy and simple to learn. For Duarte, operating “Cujo” is more like playing “Call of Duty”.

LS3 Still Needs Fine Tuning For Efficiency
Having the young Marines at the helm of the LS3 operations is vital to the final development of the program. Why? The manufacturer gave the military hands-on capability with “Cujo” in order for them (manufacturer) to see what the military will use it for instead of just putting it in a parking lot or military garage.

With the young Marines operating the robotic mule, the manufacturer will have a better understanding of what the military is looking for in terms of functionalities and efficiencies. Instead of just their engineers pooling their ideas together, they have the input of the operators in respect of the efficiency expected from the robot.

What comes next after LS3?

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2 thoughts on “A Robotic Mule For The Marine Corps: What’s Next For The Military?”

  1. I’ve seen this cyborg mule in action on various videos. It is quite impress the way it walks through uneven terrain. But what I find most impressive is how it uses algorithms to manage its balance. There is one piece of footage that shows a soldier push it with a kick and the thing looks like it is alive in the way that it keeps its balance. That processor must be pretty fast in processing to do that on the fly.

  2. LS3 is designed to carry 400 pounds and travel 20 miles without refueling. The robot is operated by a Marine with a sensor strapped to his or her foot. I saw that video on Youtube. The robot looks life like as it follows the Marine using computer vision. The military released video of Lance Corporal Brandon Dieckmann operating the robot as he walked across a field in Oahu. This is fascinating stuff.

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