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Demand Grows for Live-Fire Robotic Targets

May. 24, 2012 - 05:10PM   |  
By LAUREN BIRON   |   Comments
At ITEC, Marathon Targets displayed a four-wheeled robotic live-fire training target.
At ITEC, Marathon Targets displayed a four-wheeled robotic live-fire training target. (Lauren Biron / Staff)
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LONDON — Australian company Marathon Targets plans to more than double the number of live-fire moving trainers, sometimes known as “terrorist robots,” that the Australian Army has by the end of the year.

The targets are essentially mannequin bodies on smart Segway platforms with two or four wheels. The mannequin bodies collapse backward when shot, are propelled at human walking or running speeds, and can be reused and shot with live ammunition multiple times. The software controlling the robots helps them find paths, avoid obstacles and scatter or attack when shot at.

The goal is to get soldiers shooting live ammunition at human-like moving targets before heading into theater.

“No one would let you fly a plane in combat without flying a real plane, but we let our own soldiers shoot a realistic moving target for the first time in combat,” said Ralph Petroff, board adviser for Marathon Targets.

The Australian Army already has eight of the two-wheeled T20 models, but is scheduled to upgrade the fleet to include the four-wheeled T40 robots, which are more adept at navigating slopes and rough terrain such as gravel and grass.

The U.S. Marine Corps is also scheduled to receive T40s before the end of the year and another NATO country should have operational T20s in August.

Marathon Targets’ director, Tobias Kaupp, said the company has made it a “priority to improve moving marksmanship.” The company will conduct a live-fire demonstration next week for yet another interested NATO country.

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