US, China locked in a race to weaponize four-legged robots for military applications


The Chinese military recently unveiled a new kind of battle buddy for its soldiers: a “robot dog” with a machine gun strapped to its back.

In video distributed by the state-run news agency CCTV, People’s Liberation Army personnel are shown operating on a testing range alongside a four-legged robot with what appears to be a variant of the standard-issue 5.8 x 42-mm QBZ-95 assault rifle mounted on it as part of China’s recent Golden Dragon 24 joint military exercises with Cambodia in the Gulf of Thailand. In one scenario, Chinese soldiers stand on either side of a doorway while the robot dog enters the building ahead of them; in another, the robot fires off a burst of bullets as it advances on a target.

“It can serve as a new member in our urban combat operations, replacing our members to conduct reconnaissance and identify enemy [sic] and strike the target during our training,” one Chinese soldier shown operating the robot told CCTV.

This isn’t the first time the Chinese military-industrial complex has shown off an armed robot dog. In October 2022, Chinese defense company Kestrel Defense published a video showing an unmanned aerial vehicle air-dropping a quadrupedal ground vehicle affixed with a 5.8 x 42-mm QBB-97 light machine gun on a roof during an urban warfare experiment. The company had previously released footage of robot dogs outfitted with combat systems that included everything from smoke grenades to loitering munitions. And as recently as this March, Chinese researchers claimed that tests involving robot dogs outfitted with an unidentified 7.62-mm rifle (likely a variant of the Type 56 assault rifle that’s based on the ubiquitous Soviet-made AK-47) yielded marksmanship that rivaled trained Chinese sharpshooters, according to the South China Morning Post.

China’s demonstration clearly rankled international observers, prompting at least one American lawmaker to call on the US Defense Department for a report on “rifle-toting robot dogs” and their potential national security implications. But if the Chinese military is pioneering the weaponization of robot dogs, then the United States military isn’t far behind.

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