The Ripsaw tank needs no introduction, and I won’t spend time talking about the EV2 variant that Hammond reviewed. As you might know, The Ripsaw was developed as a military light tank, and although the US Army has acquired two vehicles to test autonomous technology and weapon systems, the whole thing was far from being in active service.
Until last month that is.
While the platform was good, Howe & Howe lacked the expertise to turn the Ripsaw into a war machine, and seem to hit a wall in its development. That, however, changed last year when Textron Systems bought Howe & Howe and brought their expertise and connections into the mix. Together with FLIR Systems, they unveiled the Ripsaw M5 Robotic Combat Vehicle, a robotic tank in AUSA 2019. Using the latest platform of a Ripsaw and technological expertise in unmanned technology and weapons, they have might have devised the first autonomous tank that could see combat use.
The Ripsaw M5 is designed as a support vehicle for Infantry and Tank units, helping them to conduct reconnaissance and act as a force multiplier. Trexton states that the vehicle will become the “Wingman” for the army, saving lives by keeping the soldiers out of harm's way. While the vehicle has AI, the Ripsaw M5 is not a fully autonomous vehicle; it is more of an unmanned ground vehicle. So don’t make any Terminator jokes because it still needs a human operator to fire its guns, for now.
The M5 is a very modular vehicle that can fit different weapons and equipment to do various tasks in the battlefield. The vehicle has a Kongsberg MCT-30 Protector turret with a 30-millimeter Mk. 44 Bushmaster II autocannon, similar to the one used on the Stryker Dragoon. It can be additionally be kitted out with Javelin ATGM, AA guns, and anti-aircraft missiles. It also can clear and destroy mines, IED, and other obstacles with a mine plow and a rocket-propelled lane clearing charge.
The vehicle also boasts the ability to launch other drones. It has an R80D Skyraider UAV and a Marsupial UGV in its arsenal that can carry out additional reconnaissance tasks both in air and land. Combined with the FLIR 360-degree optical and infrared cameras, this is a perfect vehicle for surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Moreover, with the new hybrid powerpack it is significantly sneaker than its predecessor.
The M5 in its current form can fulfill multiple roles in the battlefield, ranging from infantry and armor support, scouting, mine and obstacle-clearing, and so on. While the 30 mm cannon is not enough to kill a tank, it is more enough for a lightly armored target. With its low weight, it can be deployed from a variety of aircraft. And its reconnaissance ability both in air and land, it can significantly increase situational awareness of the troops while reducing the chances of an ambush.
However, it is highly unlikely that the Ripsaw M5 would join active service in its current form. The M5 is still an untested vehicle; as such, it would need more changes before joining active service. There is also a probability that this vehicle would be integrated into other ongoing projects and upgrade program within the army. As mentioned, the M5 is a very modular platform; thus can be modified and upgraded to meet the requirements of the military.
Thus it is likely that we will see the Ripsaw or something that's based on it in combat soon.