CAMP BUEHRING, KUWAIT – The 1st Theater Sustainment Command, a subordinate command of U.S. Army Central, demonstrated three autonomous vehicles at the Udairi Range Complex near Camp Buehring, Kuwait, on 25 July, 2023. This is the first time these ground-breaking systems were publicly displayed in the U.S. Central Command region.
The vehicles, three Palletized Loading Systems or “PLS”, are intended to decrease risk during combat operations by reducing the manpower required by traditional, non-autonomous systems. PLSs are ten wheeled logistics vehicles first introduced in the early 1990s. They are designed to transport palletized loads or containers in support of both combat and non-combat operations.
USARCENT is testing the new autonomous operating systems installed on these PLSs over the coming months in various locations in the CENTCOM region. During the demonstration, the autonomous vehicles navigated a short off-road course without Soldiers giving driver inputs to the trailing vehicles.
“Based on our experience, these autonomous vehicles allow a smaller number of Soldiers to accomplish larger missions,” said Brig. Gen. Maria A. Juarez, 1st TSC Deputy Commanding General. “We gained insights during these tests into possible future technologies that remove Soldiers from harm’s way while enhancing distribution capabilities.”
Task Force 39, the USARCENT organization focused on innovation and modernization, organized the testing facilitated by sustainment personnel from the 1st TSC’s 371st Sustainment Brigade. The vehicles arrived in Kuwait in early July and will be incorporated into various exercises over the next several months. The unique environment of northern Kuwait provided an opportunity to test the vehicles in an incredibly difficult climate.
“Our units and Soldiers train and perform their assigned missions in challenging terrain and environments, from moving equipment from ports across the CENTCOM area of operations to tactical movement in a field setting,” said Lt. Gen. Patrick Frank, the USARCENT Commanding General. “The driver’s training we are conducting with the autonomous vehicle PLS trucks presents our Soldiers with the ability to be on the cutting edge of innovation and apply industry leading technology to the battlefield. The U.S. Army and CENTCOM are driving this approach to innovation and modernization.”
Previously tested on a smaller scale in the United States, USARCENT is incorporating these autonomous vehicles into sustainment units in Kuwait to provide a greater quantity of real-world data.
“USARCENT and CENTCOM are leading the way in innovation for the Department of Defense,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Ricky Horne, USARCENT’s senior ordnance ground maintenance officer who helped organize the testing. “We are excited to test ground-breaking technologies, like autonomous vehicles, within our organization to generate the most realistic tests results possible.”
United States Army Central is the U.S. Army Service Component Command for United States Central Command and is responsible to the Secretary of the Army for the support and administration of more than 12,000 Soldiers, including those assigned to joint task forces and embassies, across the 21 countries in the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility.