U.S. Marine Corps Developing Unmanned Vehicle to Breach Surf Zone

The U.S.Marine Corps (USMC) is developing a prototype for an unmanned robot system to scour the waters for threats in a mined environment.

The Crawling Remotely Operated Amphibious Breacher, or CRAB, will be a submersible, remote-autonomous system with front-end equipment—including a mine flail, tiller, and rake capable of breaching or proofing amphibious assault lanes for landing forces.

“In theory, the CRAB system will breach through man-made obstacles in the surf zone,” said Capt. Anthony Molnar, Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC)’s MK154 and MK155 project officer.

The robotic crawlers will splash into the water from a littoral utility craft and travel along the seafloor to remove explosive and nonexplosive obstacles from the assault lane. Each CRAB is intended to be expendable, said Molnar.

In the fourth quarter of the fiscal year 2019, MCSC submitted a proposal to the Office of Naval Research (ONR) for the CRAB system as a Rapid Innovation Fund topic for fiscal 2020. Once approved, MCSC will begin a two-year process of developing a prototype.

The USMC currently employs an M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle (ABV) — an M1A1 tank chassis with a full-width mine plow and Mine Clearing Line Charges (MICLIC) for mine- and explosives-clearing missions. However, this vehicle is not designed to breach the surf zone.

Treating a dispensable piece of equipment, like the CRAB system, as a mine roller enables Marines to safely detonate underwater explosives prior to manned vehicles passing through an amphibious assault lane, said Molnar.

M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle (ABV)
U.S. Marines from 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, conduct the first amphibious landing in an Assault Breacher Vehicle with a Modified Full Width Mine Plow prototype during Exercise Steel Knight on the west coast. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Rhita Daniel)

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