Lockheed Martin MULE


War: what is it good for? Absolutely Nothing. Unless, of course, you happen to own a technology company, that is. Then, the war-like future could well be bright.

Sadly, it’s difficult to deny the fact that the military-industrial complex has benefited from having an enemy to defeat. The tricky moral question arises when you are forced to acknowledge that technological evolutions encouraged by billions of dollars being shoveled into military research and development, eventually trickles down to benefit the whole of mankind.

Witness the futuristic developments encapsulated in the Lockheed – Martin MULE (Multifunction Utility/Logistics and Equipment) vehicle.

The US military apparently has some 1400 units of this unmanned assault vehicle on order, with the first units slated for use in 2014.

Operated by a PSP-like handset by a commander at squad level, the first manifestation of the MULE will be used to support boots-on-the-ground infantry operations: the type of ops that are costing so many lives in Afghanistan at the moment.

The infantry support variant will be armed with light weapons as well as the Javelin guided-missile system. Its armoured construction make it apparently much more survivable than any vehicle in use currently by the military.

The MULE’s running gear features 6×6 independent articulated suspension, coupled with in-hub motors powering each wheel. This provides an on demand hit of torque. According the Lockheed-Martin it can climb least a 1-metre step, can cross 1-metre gaps, traverse side inclines of more than 40 percent, ford water to depths over 0.5 metres and overpass obstacles as high as 0.5 metres while compensating for varying payload weights and center-of-gravity locations.

Crucially, a derivative is also in development that will be supposedly be operated by ‘drivers’ stationed at locations in way to the rear, guided by a network of Unmanned Flying Vehicles, which will in turn be coordinated by satellites.

The vision is to run human-free convoys through bandit country, thus lessening the impact of the Improvised Explosive Devices, mines and other roadside nasties that are causing so much of a problem at the moment.

Can it be long until this mechanical and guidance electronic tech finds its way into our  retail market of hybrid SUVs?

The sales video for from Lockheed Martin would be (almost) funny if it wasn’t so terrifying.