The U.S. Army has recently declared that it is cutting troop levels. Over the next sixteen years, each and every brigade in the Army will see its soldier count drop from 4,000 to 3,000, with robots making up the loss in firepower. That’s according to General Robert Cone, who said robot soldier levels would reach their new peak between 2030 and 2040 during an Army Aviation symposium last week.
The scope of Gen. Cone’s announcement is even more sweeping than you might suppose. Soldiers currently work in nine-man squads — the smallest effective unit size generally deployed. Vehicles and infrastructure are constructed with these basic troop units in mind, so altering this group mechanic to either include robot members or entire squads of mechanical soldiers would be a massive undertaking from a infrastructure point of view.
That being said, there’s already a robot for almost every job in the armed forces. Drones provide air support while robotic mini-tanks patrol streets. Tiny, insect-sized robot helicopters provide intel, and Robotic medics and first responders are on the horizon. Smart rifles can even take the place of snipers.
Even the human soldiers deploying alongside the robots will be outfitted with robotic exoskeletons, so from a certain perspective a 25 percent reduction in manpower by 2030 could almost be viewed as a conservative estimate. The reason behind all this robotic warmongering might not be the Skynet reference you’d be right to expect at this point. Human soldiers cost a ton of money, reminds General Cone. Caring for those whose tour of service is over actually made up a quarter of the total defense budget last year. So, while a robot might cost you an arm and a leg, it won’t bill you for treatment for decades after it loses one of its own. Given the circumstances, the human soldiers might have a lot to be thankful for, when their robotic squad-mates report for duty.