Technological colossus South Korea is pressing ahead with efforts to join Israel and America in the white-hot field of killer robots.
Korean sources have announced that Samsung, a company better known for its consumer goods, is manufacturing the SGR-A1 sentry unit for deployment on the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between South and North Korea.
The robots will be in place later this year, according to reports.
The SGR-A1 is a stationary system, enabling its designers to ignore the power, communications, and traction issues which tend to plague its mobile counterparts. Furthermore, unlike some other machines, it has a defined mission which it should genuinely be able to accomplish. The DMZ is constantly patrolled and guarded along its entire length, putting a colossal burden on South Korea's military manpower. With Southern birth rates projected to fall, the Koreans need to use their conscript army more efficiently, and SGR-A1s will save a lot of human sentries' man-hours.
The robot's primary usefulness lies in its camera systems and software, enabling it to pick out genuine intruders and – according to Samsung, anyway – ignore false alarms. Human overseers can then be alerted and decide on a response.
That response can be delivered by the SGR-A1 itself in some cases. Samsung says that the unit can be fitted with a range of weapons. Naturally, the option which grabs the most attention is the one where the robot packs a machine gun, rather than a wussy non-lethal system of some sort.
Reportedly, the SGR-A1's choice of shooter is the Daewoo K3, a fairly straight knockoff of the Belgian FN Minimi squad-auto weapon in service worldwide.
It appears that the SGR-A1 may not be exactly impossible to sneak up on, however – at least from some directions – as Samsung is careful to specify that the weapons mount is equipped with an anti-theft alarm. There is no indication from the company of any option to deliver a warning before opening fire, suggesting that intruders tangling with an SGR-A1 may not get the traditional 30 seconds to comply.
A 5.56mm light automatic is quite a decent bit of firepower, and the SGR-A1's seeming lack of speakers or mikes would suggest an uncompromising battle robot. Nonetheless, SGR-A1s evidently aren't intended to resist the North Korean army for long should the balloon ever go up.
Stationary light-machinegun posts would be easily taken out by company or battalion-level weapons – let alone tanks, artillery, or air support. The SGR-A1 would be useful principally as a sacrificial tripwire in the context of full-on combat, rather than as a warfighting system. ®