Israel's newest ''soldier'' can see at night, never nods off on sentry duty and can carry 660 pounds without complaining.
The Guardium, a remote-controlled, unmanned vehicle commissioned by the Israeli military and shown to The Associated Press on Monday, is among the first such machines to be ready for the battlefield. The army said it had not yet entered service, however, and declined further comment.
The four-wheeled vehicle is designed to replace human soldiers in dangerous roles, and sometimes tedious missions, cutting casualties.
Like the pilotless drones that have become a mainstay of air forces in Israel, the U.S. and elsewhere, the Guardium is operated from a command room far from the front line. It can carry cameras, night-vision equipment and sensors, as well as weapons like machine guns.
The Guardium even has a limited capability to operate on its own. Following preprogrammed routes, it can navigate alone on patrol along a barrier fence or make its way through a city -- the vehicle knows how to deal with intersections, traffic and road markings.
Relying on cameras that scan 360 degrees at all times, the vehicle's sensors send alerts of anything suspicious to the remote operator, who can take control at any time.
The Guardium never mentally wanders or falls asleep during mind-numbing guard or patrol missions in dangerous war zones.
''Representatives of armies with troops who are taking high casualties in asymmetric warfare, from threats like roadside bombs, get excited about this product,'' said Erez Peled, general manager of G-Nius Unmanned Ground Systems, the company that developed the Guardium.
The operator works with two large video screens and a joystick as well as a steering wheel and gas and brake pedals that lend the control console the look of a video arcade game.
''Any kid who grew up with a PlayStation will be able to come in here and learn this in seconds,'' Peled said.
A single Guardium costs approximately $600,000. With the control system, the price runs to several million dollars, depending on what equipment is installed on the vehicle.
John Pike, director of the Virginia-based military think tank Globalsecurity.org, said there is only one other similar vehicle operational -- a South Korean robot used to patrol the demilitarized zone with North Korea. With the details of the Korean vehicle classified, Pike could not say which was more advanced.
Robots like this are potentially the future of ground warfare, Pike said.
''A robot does what it's told, and you'll be able to get them to advance in ways it's hard to get human soldiers to do. They don't have fear, and they kill without compunction.''
More importantly, he said, ''A robot means you don't have to write a condolence letter.''