Israeli Firm Develops Armed Combat Robot

An Israeli defense firm on Thursday unveiled a portable robot billed as being capable of entering most combat zones alone and engaging enemies with an onboard armory that includes a machine-pistol and grenades.

The 25-pound, 9-inch-tall VIPeR, roughly the size of a small television, was invented as part of Israel's efforts to develop weaponry that could reduce the risks to its forces from hand-to-hand fighting against Palestinian or Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.

The manufacturer, Elbit Systems Ltd., said that the VIPeR's small size — it can be carried on a soldier's back — and dual treads enable it to move "undeterred by stairs, rubble, dark alleys, caves or narrow tunnels."

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As well as bomb-sniffing and bomb disposal equipment, the VIPeR can carry an Uzi machine-pistol or plant a grenade via remote control. The weapons would be aimed using an onboard video camera. The VIPeR can also climb stairs and use preprogrammed mapping software to find its way around.

According to Elbit, which has close links with the Defense Ministry, Israel plans to deploy the VIPeR among its infantry units after field tests.

The robot could also be of interest to foreign police units or U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The VIPeR was unveiled at the winter exhibition of the Association of the United States Army, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.