Estonian unmanned military vehicles manufacturer Milrem Robotics has been demonstrating its latest version of the unarmed self-propelled vehicle, TheMIS, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Thursday night. While the vehicle is currently controlled remotely by a human operator, the aim is a fully autonomous version, which would work in conjunction with a drone.
Estonia is leading a consortium of seven countries aiming to develop a common standard for unmanned land vehicles and allocated €32 million for development.
Milrem's research and development director Jüri Pajuste told AK that: "Since the terrain in Afghanistan was very rutted, we couldn't take armor with us, and one went to battle with just what could be carried on a soldier's back," noting that TheMIS would therefore have been a useful addition in that theater.
"Such a machine, even without any weapons system, would augment things with a lot of operating distance, operating time and firepower," he continued.
The last of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) personnel serving in Afghanistan returned home earlier this week, ending an 18-year presence in the country and following a decision made by U.S. President Joe Biden to withdraw through the course of this year.
Holland's defense forces have also been utlizing the Milrem Robotics self-propelled vehicle for three years, though their commander, Lt. Col. Martijn Hädicke, also came to the demonstration of the remote-controlled fighter prototype Type-X, which Milrem showed publicly for the first time on Thursday.
Type-X is armed with a 20-50 mm cannon and is designed to support armored units.
Four or five countries in Europe are developing such machines, with Estonia among them.
Developers still have work to do, however.
Lt. Col. Hädicke, who is commander of the Netherlands Armed Forces (Nederlandse krijgsmacht) Robotic and Autonomous Systems Unit, told AK that: "We need to work on non-battle factors - such as communication jammers and machine control security, to make the system combatable."
TheMIS has to pass five tests over two years, in front of representatives of the seven European partners involved. Systems from Germany, and a drone from Latvia, were also on display Thursday.
Finland, Spain and Belgium join Estonia, the Netherlands, Germany and Latvia in the project.
The TheMIS took a Dutch drone to the field, which then flawed while connected to the TheMIS with a cable, which prolongs the drone's battery life, AK reported.
TheMIS also demonstrated its ability to evacuate wounded and retrieve equipment – AK showed the unmanned vehicle towing a 4WD vehicle.
The ultimate goal is for such systems to be autonomous rather than remotely controlled by a human operator, with a drone inspecting an area as a preliminary and the Themis following it up.
"We will get to a stage where a button is pressed and the machine itself does all the driving," Martin Jõesaar, project manager at the State Defense Investment Center (RKK), said.
Milrem kit has been used in the West African country of Mali, where Estonian troops are deployed in the French-led counter-terrorism Operation Barkhane. Their primary client is the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF).
The original AK slot is here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte