A new entity is making its face known on the battlefield today. This time it's a drone but not of the flying kind. The U.S. Army has placed an order for 624 fully autonomous land vehicles known as the MUTT or Multi-Utility Tactical Transport, in a contract worth $162 million. 

The MUTT is a fully autonomous 8-wheeled vehicle, manufactured by General Dynamics, and can be wirelessly tethered to an individual in a squad who it will then follow. It is designed to carry 1,200 lbs and can travel as far as 60 miles on a single tank of gas. It can literally be used to haul anything from food and supplies to extra weapon systems, including recoilless rifles and Javelin missiles. And can even provide power when stationary.

This is important because the modern U.S. soldiers carry anywhere between 60 and 120 lbs of gear with them onto the battlefield. And that's just an average -- some people can more and others will carry less. No matter what the case, freeing a soldier of that load of extra weapons and supplies will allow them to move and be less fatigued in battle. And, as recent research by a Marine officer suggests, just 15 extra pounds of gear can be the difference between life and death in a firefight. This robotic mule can be saving the lives of U.S. soldiers in battle.

A US soldier sits atop an armored vehicle during a demonstration by Syrian Kurds in the town of Ras al-Ain shortly before the Turkish invasion in October 2019 A US soldier sits atop an armored vehicle during a demonstration by Syrian Kurds in the town of Ras al-Ain shortly before the Turkish invasion in October 2019 Photo: AFP / Delil SOULEIMAN
The contract is expected to run through 2024 and is a huge success for General Dynamics, who transitioned from aerospace to defense  systems over the last 25 years. Keeping American soldiers more functional on the battlefield and allowing them to maneuver themselves out of situations is about saving lives. This includes carrying wounded from the battlefield as the MUTT can be outfitted with medical supplies for treatment.

The remote control functions of the MUTT will allow it to be used as a scout vehicle as well so the vehicle can be sent into hostile territory country with equipment and video cameras. In other words, the MUTT will help avoid U.S. soldiers having to be put in situations where they don't know what to expect from the enemy.

The radar cross-section of the MUTT is extremely low and can be compared to that of a stealth fighter, so the likelihood of the enemy being able to detect and target the vehicle is very low.