Squad Mis­sion Sup­port Sys­tem, largest ever UGV de­ployed with US Forces


The SMSS (Squad Mis­sion Sup­port Sys­tem) is an au­ton­o­mous Un­manned Ground Ve­hi­cle (UGV) man­u­fac­tured by Lock­heed Martin, for the US armed forces. It is the largest au­ton­o­mous UGV ever de­ployed with the US forces.

The SMSS un­manned ve­hi­cle is pri­mar­ily de­signed to pro­vide lo­gis­tics sup­port for light and early-en­try forces.

De­vel­op­ment of the SMSS

The SMSS was de­vel­oped as an in­de­pen­dent re­search and de­vel­op­ment project funded by Lock­heed Martin. The ve­hi­cle was un­veiled at the the AUSA 2006 ex­hi­bi­tion. It was first eval­u­ated dur­ing the Army Ex­pe­di­tionary War­rior Ex­per­i­ment (AEWE) in 2008. A mil­i­tary util­ity as­sess­ment was con­ducted at Fort Ben­ning in 2009.

The ve­hi­cle demon­strated its ca­pa­bil­i­ties dur­ing the Por­ta­ble Power Ex­cur­sion (PPE) tests in late 2010. The sec­ond AEWE eval­u­a­tion was con­ducted in 2011.

Af­ter win­ning the Army-spon­sored Project Work­horse UGV com­pe­ti­tion, the SMSS was se­lected in July 2011 by the US Army Rapid Equip­ping Force for a three-month Mil­i­tary Util­ity As­sess­ment (MUA) in Afghanistan. Four SMSS Block I ve­hi­cles were trailed dur­ing the in-the­atre as­sess­ment. The SMSS was also as­sessed by the British Army in 2012. The ve­hi­cle was granted six safety re­leases by the US Army to work in close prox­im­ity around sol­diers.

De­sign fea­tures of the Squad Mis­sion Sup­port Sys­tem

The SMSS is based on the six-wheeled am­phibi­ous ATV Land Tamer plat­form. The mod­u­lar de­sign al­lows the ve­hi­cle to be mod­i­fied as trans­port, scout, mo­bile power and mo­bile com­mu­ni­ca­tions plat­form.

The ve­hi­cle has a length of 3.6 m, width of 1.8 m and a height of 2.1 m. The stan­dard weight of the SMSS is 1,724 kg. The ve­hi­cle can carry up to 544 kg of pay­load.

The SMSS sen­sor suite in­te­grates Light De­tec­tion And Rang­ing (LIDAR), in­frared and a colour cam­era. The ve­hi­cle can lock-on and fol­low any per­son by iden­ti­fy­ing his 3D pro­file cap­tured by the on­board sen­sors. The SMSS au­tonomously nav­i­gates through a pre- pro­grammed route us­ing GPS way-points.

The SMSS Block I ve­hi­cle can be con­trolled through su­per­vised au­ton­omy, voice, tele-op­er­a­tion or by man­u­ally driven modes. The op­er­a­tor con­trol unit in­cludes a com­puter, con­trol/dis­play unit, bat­ter­ies and an­tenna. The unit can be car­ried in the stan­dard mod­u­lar light­weight load-car­ry­ing equip­ment (MOLLE) sys­tem.

Squad Mis­sion Sup­port Sys­tem mis­sions

The SMSS is in­tended to re­duce the load of the nine to 13-man squads or teams by trans­port­ing their equip­ment, sup­plies, arms and am­mu­ni­tion on un­paved roads and cross-coun­try ter­rains.

The au­tonomously op­er­ated ve­hi­cle will save the time utilised by the warfighter to con­trol ro­botic sys­tems. The re­li­able squad-size ve­hi­cle en­hances the com­bat readi­ness by en­sur­ing the re-sup­ply chan­nels and ca­su­alty evac­u­a­tions. The fu­ture armed vari­ants will fea­ture im­proved re­con­nais­sance, sur­veil­lance and tar­get ac­qui­si­tion po­ten­tial­i­ties.

SMSS engine and mo­bil­ity

The SMSS is pow­ered by a 60 hp or 80 hp turbo diesel engine. The UGV is equipped with hy­draulic/gear drive sys­tem. Each hy­draulic drive mo­tor driven by an in­de­pen­dent pump of the tan­dem pump set up de­liv­ers torque to the three wheels on ei­ther side of the ve­hi­cle.

The drive sys­tem of the UGV de­liv­ers more power to the wheels than other hy­draulic ve­hi­cles with a hy­draulic wheel mo­tor at each wheel. The SMSS drive sys­tem com­po­nents are housed inside the hull to with­stand the im­pact of wa­ter, mud, dust and rocks.

The highly mo­bile 6 x 6 ve­hi­cle is ideal for asym­met­ri­cal and ur­ban bat­tle­fields. It can sup­port the squad to carry out var­i­ous mis­sions on most dan­ger­ous ter­rains. The SMSS Block I ve­hi­cle has a range of 200 km. The ve­hi­cle can ne­go­ti­ate a ver­ti­cal step of 0.55 m and trench of 0.7 m. It can be in­ter­nally trans­ported by CH-47 Chi­nook and CH-53 he­li­copters.

The SMSS also fea­tures sling load lift points for ex­ter­nal trans­porta­tion by he­li­copters such as UH-60 Black Hawk.

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