U.S. Army infantry leaders needed a robotic combat vehicle to carry equipment and food for a squad of nine infantry soldiers, as well as provide power for battery recharging. They found their solution from General Dynamics Land Systems in Sterling Heights, Mich.

Officials of the Army Contracting Command in Warren, Mich., announced a $162.4 million five-year contract to General Dynamics on Wednesday for the Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport (SMET) system.

The SMET unmanned vehicle will be able to carry 1,000 pounds, operate over 60 miles in 72 hours, generate three kilowatts of power while standing still, and one kilowatt of power while moving.

This ability could relieve individual squad infantry soldiers of carrying the burden of 60 to 120 pounds of food, ammunition, batteries, fuel, and other equipment. Each infantry squad has about nine soldiers, and the SMET can carry most equipment for a squad carrying out a long-range mission.

Related: Army set to approach industry for prototype unmanned robotic teleop combat vehicle with automatic cannon

The SMET combat vehicle enables infantrymen to take a lot off his back, for example, which reduces fatigue and increases the amount of equipment he can carry. Experts have field tested the SMET in the Arctic and the jungle, which revealed that some things work better than others in different places.

General Dynamics prevailed in the SMET competition over three other companies: a team of Polaris Industries Inc. in Medina, Minn., Applied Research Associates Inc. in Albuquerque, N.M., and Neya Systems LLC in Warrendale, Pa.; HDT Global Inc. in Solon, Ohio; and Howe and Howe Technologies Inc. in Waterboro, Maine
The General Dynamics Multi-Utility Tactical Transport (MUTT) will serve as the Army’s SMET. MUTT is a rugged small-unit force multiplier providing increased persistence, protection, and projection
It is a controller-less small-unit robotic follower that lightens the load in combat operations. As a remote-controlled or teleoperated teammate, it provides stand-off from threats or increased projection of combat power. The MUTT is engineered to evolve to accommodate new payloads, new controllers, and increased levels of autonomy.

Related: U.S. military shifting research and technology development toward armed robotic ground vehicles The contract to General Dynamics includes support hardware including authorized stockage list kits and prescribed load list kits; and services for refurbishment, user training, field service representative, system technical support, program management support for pre-production meetings, and storage.

The SMET vehicle will be designed to follow along behind a squad of Infantry Soldiers and carry most or all their gear for them, so they can move to where they need to be without being exhausted upon arrival. The Army requirement is that the SMET be able to operate unmanned, teleoperated by a human operator.

The Army wants to buy as many as 5,700 robotic mules for brigade combat teams depending on their price and available funding.

On this contract General Dynamics will do the work at locations determined with each order, and should be finished by October 2024. For more information contact General Dynamics Land Systems online at www.gdls.com, or the Army Contracting Command-Warren at