Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) is leading a consortium of UK companies – Prodrive, ARKE, Think!Creative, Cranfield University and BAE Systems – to explore concepts for a new, cost-effective and highly-capable Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) for the British Army. The team’s primary goal has been to enable the development of a more robust, agile and efficient platform that can operate at high tempo and within the decision cycle of opposing forces. The vehicle should also include an amphibious capability that enhances its mobility and effectiveness across a range of terrains. The United Kingdom Ministry of Defence’s Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) initiated the study to explore new approaches to UGVs as part of its wider Mounted Combat Systems research project. The RBSL-led consortium, together with Dstl, are working on concept development, analysis and technology risk reduction.
Dr Marcus Potter, RBSL Head of Mobility, said: “Not only will this study deliver exciting results for UGV development, it also provides an opportunity to develop new technologies for UK defence. RBSL is proud to be leading the consortium on this work and exercising our significant capabilities in mobility and survivability.”
Matt Ackroyd, Dstl Project Manager for the study, said:“In order to meet demanding and conflicting requirements, novel modular concepts have been developed which would allow platforms to be configured in theatre to meet specific mission requirements. We are thrilled to be working with RBSL and the wider consortium to explore new ways to meet these requirements and enable the spectrum of operations that UGV must deliver.”
The study also aims to demonstrate how UGV capabilities can be integrated with other crewed platforms in manoeuvre warfare, providing an insight into what the British Army’s future force may look like. The programme is sustaining highly-skilled roles within the consortium and creating potential export opportunities for the UK. It is also providing opportunities to use new technologies to integrate into UK defence capabilities, leading to significant operational advantage. RBSL and its partners are developing solutions in two phases, the first using currently available or mature technologies, and the second using technologies that are likely to be available in 10+ years. The consortium is focusing on medium-weight platforms (c. 2-5 tonnes), which ensures the UGVs can carry a range of critical payloads for re-supply, casualty evacuation, reconnaissance, weapons platforms, decoys and communication.
The next step for the programme is an evaluation phase where the concepts will be bench-marked against current UGVs. The team will then launch an experiment to test the concepts’ operational capabilities in a synthetic environment noting that, where weapon systems are involved, targets are never engaged autonomously; there is always a human in the loop. This study is the latest in a series of UK UGV programmes that RBSL and its parent company, Rheinmetall, have supported. Rheinmetall has supplied a total of eight Mission Master UGVs, including cargo and fire support variants, to the British Army under the Robotic Platoon Vehicle (RPV) programme. The RPV programme is an additional opportunity to test how unmanned vehicles can boost the firepower and capabilities of dismounted combat troops at platoon level which will further support Dstl’s research.