Since the creation of the main battle tank during World War I, there has been a constant arms race between the development of anti-tank weapons and vehicle protection systems, however “Weapons’ ability to penetrate armor, however, has advanced faster than armor’s ability to withstand penetration”.
One of the technology militaries are racing to adopt is Active Protection Systems, or APS, to enhance the survivability. It uses sensors and radar, computer processing, fire control technology and interceptors to find, target and knock down or intercept incoming enemy fire such as RPGs and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, or ATGMs.
Now another anti-tank weapon, a tank-killing unmanned ground vehicle is threatening to change the equation again. They are cheaper than manned platforms and weapons and can be lost without a human toll while packing deadly lethal power.
MBDA and Milrem Robotics have announced the debut of their unmanned ground vehicle (UGV), which is designed for anti-tank purposes. Claimed to be the world’s first anti-tank UGV, the system has been developed under a joint project between the companies in June.
Väärsi added: “Our unmanned land combat system under study together with MBDA will be very efficient in keeping our troops safe and significantly increasing the capability to fight main battle tanks, as well as any other ground target.”
The land combat warfare system features MBDA’s integrated MMP precision attack combat turret (IMPACT) system integrated onto Milrem Robotics’ THeMIS UGV.MBDA IMPACT is fitted with two MMP fifth-generation battlefield engagement missiles and a self-defence machine gun.
Milrem Robotics CEO Kuldar Väärsi said: “This combination of two of the most modern technologies in their field is a very good example how robotic warfare systems will bring disruption to the battlefield and make some traditional technologies obsolete.” This is another example of robotization of battlefield with robotic vehicles fighting robotic vehicles.
Video footage of Russia’s new combat-capable Marker unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) emerged in February 2019. The Marker UGV is a joint project between the Foundation for Advanced Studies (FPI), Russia’s equivalent to the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in conjunction with the NGO ‘Android Technology’. This latest development from Russia demonstrates its future focus on advancing artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and swarming technologies.
Russia’s FPI unveils Marker armed UGV
It has been described as an experimental platform that will interact with special forces to test and mature emerging technologies and concepts of operation. The tracked vehicle features a slightly sloped front glacis plate and is equipped with a remote weapons station (RWS).
The RWS is armed with a Kalashnikov machine gun (MG) as its primary armament with sensors and optics fitted to the front and top of the turret structure, with two anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) mounted opposite the MG. The UGV is likely to include various mission systems such as a laser warning system, thermal sensors, day/night infrared cameras, laser rangefinder, target detection, early warning system, identification, and tracking equipment.
It can be controlled remotely or work in tandem with a soldier, receiving target designation from the sight of the soldier’s weapon. The UGV has been designed with open information architecture to facilitate future technology insertions without requiring major modifications. The FPI previously developed the humanoid Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research (FEDOR) robot, which has been trained to operate guns with both of its manipulators, drive a car, and do push-ups.
THeMIS unmanned ground vehicle (UGV)
The THeMIS unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) is the product of Milrem, an Estonian defense firm. THeMIS is designed as a multipurpose vehicle capable of acting as a battlefield scout, providing fire support, or even carrying cargo for ground troops.
The vehicle features an open architecture and has hybrid diesel-electric drive with “low or zero” noise signature. It can be configured with a robotic arm or a .50 caliber machine gun and can carry payloads of up to 1,650 pounds.
Being delivered to the French Army since the end of 2017, the MMP system is now deployed by the French forces in theatre, where it replaces the Milan and Javelin missiles. With fully digitalized functions of observation, targeting, positioning and guidance, the MMP system is perfectly suited for integration on vehicles, including remotely operated ones” said Francis Bordachar, Military Advisor Land Products at MBDA.
Last but not least, ret. General Terras announced a captivating news: the Estonian army will deploy Milrem THeMIS in Mali at the end of April but not in an armed version: these UGVs will be operationally tested only in the reconnaissance and transport (mule) roles.
MMP Precision Attack Combat Turret (IMPACT)
THeMIS now has a new role that is its deadliest yet. Milrem partnered with European missile company MBDA to add the new Integrated MMP Precision Attack Combat Turret (IMPACT) to the low-slung vehicle. The turret includes two MMP missiles (Missile Moyenne Portée, or Medium Range Missile). One of the newest anti-tank missiles on the market, MMP has a range of 3.1 miles and penetrates up to 39.3 inches of hardened steel armor plating
“MMP, the world’s only 5th Generation anti-tank guided weapon, now in service within the French Armed Forces, has been developed for both mounted and dismounted applications and is suitable for unmanned ground vehicle (UGV). With its 4km+ range and its two firing modes – lock on before launch (LOBL) and lock on after launch (LOAL) – the MMP gives to THeMIS UGV an unmatched capability to engage a target beyond line of sight.
“One of the challenges in urban warfare is keeping anti-tank infantry hidden from the enemy’s surveillance equipment that can very easily detect soldier’s heat signature. The aim of our joint integration project is developing a system that has a low heat signature and most importantly – will keep infantry in a safe distance,” explained Brig Gen (res) Alar Laneman, military advisor of Milrem Robotics.
MMP allows, within remote operation, to engage very discreetly battlefield targets at ranges greater than the enemies counter fire, from behind cover and within structures in fighting in built-up areas. The MMP Firing installation deployed on UGV also provides an ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, & Reconnaissance) capability and, through direct integration with a C4I network, delivers battlefield intelligence out beyond the platoon”, added the former Colonel Francis Bordachar, military advisor of MBDA.