Iraqi Insurgents Claim to Have Hacked U.S. Robots

It never ceases to amaze me how closely terrorist propagandists in Iraq and elsewhere monitor events in the United States for tidbits that they can use against their enemy. For example, this from the May 13 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus (as of this writing, the current issue was not yet online):

The Iraqi mujahideen are claiming that resistance engineering units have successfully “decoded” U.S. military robots designed for urban combat and turned them against U.S. soldiers. After redirecting the robots against U.S. forces, the American military was forced to withdraw the robots from service, according to the statement (Quds Press Agency, May 7). With the much vaunted robots never having seen combat service, however, it appears that the Iraqi resistance is attempting to capitalize upon unsubstantiated rumors that the robots had turned their M249 light machine guns on their U.S. operators.

Terrorism Focus speculates that the mujahideen claims are based on reports, now disavowed by the Army, that the gun of the service’s
“Special Weapons Observation Remote Reconnaissance Direct Action System” had been shown in pre-deployment testing to move in unpredictable ways. The SWORD is a variation on an unmanned ground vehicle that has been widely used by the Army for bomb disposal.

Even if the system’s had been widely deployed, according to Terrorism Focus, “the Iraqi mujahideen are unlikely to have actually been able to “decode” and reprogram the SWORD robots. Each system is equipped with deadly anti-tampering devices…”

That’s good to know.

The company that makes the robots, N.J.-based Foster-Miller, in an April 14 note posted on their Web site, had this to say of the rogue-robot rumors that caught the imagination of insurgent propagandists:

Contrary to what you may have read on other web sites, three SWORDS robots are still deployed in Iraq and have been there for almost a year of uninterrupted service.

There have been no instances of uncommanded or unexpected movements by SWORDS robots during this period, whether in-theater or elsewhere. (A few years ago, during the robot’s development, there were several minor movement issues that were expected, identified and addressed during rigorous stateside testing –prior to the Army’s safety confirmation back in 2006. Any comments made after that timeframe about “setbacks” related to the robotics industry are hypothetical — never in response to some nonexistent SWORDS incident after the safety confirmation.)

There has been no withdrawal of funds for the SWORDS program. The Army funded three robots, and that’s what they are using today in Iraq.

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