Though FCS was shut down in 2009, BAE and NREC continued to refine their unmanned vehicle. In 2018, they showed off a new version of the Black Knight, now branded as an Armed Robotic Combat Vehicle (ARCV), at the AUSA Global Force Symposium. The Department of Defense was intrigued enough by its potential that opted for further testing.
Through the use of color video cameras, Laser Detecting and Ranging (LADAR), FLIR thermal imaging cameras, and GPS, it can plan a route across a battlefield while avoiding any obstacles it encounters. The 300 hp Caterpillar diesel engine can power over virtually any off-road terrain at 15 mph, with a top road speed of 48 mph. Additionally, a teleoperator can see all of the vehicle’s onboard systems and navigate the vehicle remotely through the Robotic Operator Control Station (ROCS) using similar guidance technology that controls UAVs.
But it’s strapped with more than just surveillance and target acquisition sensors. The Black Knight is also armed with the same 25 mm cannon and coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun, making it as much an offensive weapon as a defensive one.
A C-130 transport aircraft can drop it into place and send it on its way without any human support. A final contract likely won’t be awarded regarding the Army’s ARCV program for a few more years, but the future is here.