New ‘Drone’ Tank Unveiled for US Army


The US Army has a new robotic tank. Called the Ripsaw M5, the remote-controlled drone replaces the manned Ripsaw MS2 tank which could hit a maximum of 60 miles per hour with its 600 horsepower engine.

The M5 is intended to be used alongside manned tanks and other combat units. It is configurable to be used for support, combat, and surveillance missions.

It can carry an R80D Skyraider quacopter drone which can reach an airspeed of 31 miles per hour, carry up to 4.4 pounds and stay in the air for up to 50 minutes. The Skyraider has optical and infrared cameras.

Ripsaw M5 armed with the CROWS-J anti-tank missile launcher and launching a R80 Skyraider tethered UAV.

The M5 also carries an SUGV unmanned ground robot with a manipulator arm that can climb stairs. It can be used to explore buildings and to peep around corners with a retractable surveillance turret.

Officially called a “Robotic Combat Vehicle,” the M5 is heavily armored and can be outfitted with a variety of cannons. This gives it the option of using the standard 30-millimeter Mk. 44 Bushmaster II autocannon to engage enemy infantry, trucks and armored vehicles. A Javelin anti-tank missile launcher can be outfitted instead to engage enemy tanks. An anti-aircraft missile launcher is also available.

The M5 contains a 360° surveillance turret with optical and night-vision cameras. The turret is the Kongsberg MCT-30 Protector turret which is the same turret used on the Stryker Dragoono infantry combat vehicle.

The M5 can be used to clear mines, destroy improvised explosive devices, or breach obstacles. It has the option to be outfitted with a plow, ground-penetrating radar, or a launcher which can launch ground-clearing charges.

This is the latest in the Ripsaw remote operated tanks. The first was developed by Mike and Geoff Howe, brothers who were stars of the 2010 reality show “Howe & Howe Tech.”

The M5 is manufactured by Textron Systems. They debuted the M5 at the 2019 Association of the United States Army exposition in Washington D.C.

Textron Systems CEO Lisa Atherton said that she is confident that the M5 is the “ideal wingman” for the US Army and that the company is prepared to quickly get these vehicles into the field where they are needed.

Mike Howe said that he and his brother founded Howe & Howe Tech in order to safeguard the United States military fighters.

A tethered FLIR R80D SkyRaider drone deployed from a Ripsaw M5(Textron Systems)

The M5 uses sensors from Textron Systems’ partner, FLIR Systems’ Government and Defense business unit. FLIR Systems Representative David Ray stated that his company’s cameras, drones and ground robots provide a tactical edge to the US forces by providing the latest in technology.

The M5 could be used alongside a Bradley infantry fighting vehicle to go ahead and trigger mines or IEDs before the soldiers reach them. It could be used to observe the enemy while the Bradley maneuvers to catch them unaware. If the soldiers are forced to retreat, the M5 could provide cover fire while they escape.

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The US Army tested the original Ripsaw designed by the Howe brothers from 2010 to 2017 but never bought them in any significant volume. Textron Systems bought Howe & Howe Tech in October 2018.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE