German defense company Rheinmetall announced on Friday it had developed a new robotic ground vehicle based on the Wiesel platform. Mature platform meets high tech autonomy advancement: Rheinmetall’s Autonomous Combat Warrior (ACW) Wiesel is driven by a state of the art autonomous kit which is applicable to a variety of both tracked and wheeled vehicle systems such as Boxer, Lynx or HX tactical trucks. The Autonomous Combat Warrior Wiesel can be operated manually, remote-controlled or in full autonomous mode by programming waypoints on a tablet. It can avoid obstacles autonomously and it can also follow a lead vehicle in convoy mode. Next-generation features include detecting soldier behavior and off-road terrain. The ultimate goal is improving soldier safety by keeping operators out of harm’s way.
Australian Defence Magazine (ADM) reported that Rheinmetall has upgraded its two Wiesel 2 digital vehicles with drive-by-wire architecture and the Rheinmetall Canada autonomous driving A-Kit package. These vehicles, when upgraded with Australian advanced autonomous applied research under the ACW Program, will be used to demonstrate the vehicle-agnostic and integrated payload capabilities of Rheinmetall’s Advanced A-Kit. The Autonomous driving vehicle capability, or “A-kit”, currently integrated into the Mission Master provides the base software architecture for all future stages of the ACW research program and provides the autonomous capabilities including robotic vehicle control (robotic control or semi-autonomous); “follow me” control (semi-autonomous); simultaneous localisation and mapping); autonomous waypoint navigation (semi or full autonomous); and GPS allowed/denied navigation (semi or full autonomous).
Under the Autonomous Combat Warrior (ACW) program, Rheinmetall’s Australian, German and Canadian development teams will work alongside research teams from Defence Science and Technology (DST) group, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). The aim is to develop advanced sovereign robotics and automated vehicle technologies. This will create a local automated military vehicle capability. Autonomous Combat Warrior’s goal is to fundamentally change the way in which land vehicles support military operations by transforming a vehicle from tool to teammate to provide currently unachievable levels of soldier protection, support and tactical advantage. The program will focus on the automation of driving capabilities.
The Wiesel Armoured Weapons Carrier (AWC) is a German light air-transportable armoured fighting vehicle, more specifically a lightly armoured weapons carrier. It is quite similar to historical scouting tankettes in size, form and function, and is the only true modern tankette in use in Western Europe. The Wiesel 2 is a stretched version of the Wiesel 1, with a fifth roadwheel. The engine was changed to a 1.9L Volkswagen in-line four-cylinder turbo diesel with direct injection and intercooler, giving 109 hp (81 kW) coupled to a ZF automatic transmission. The Wiesel 2 is generally bigger, faster and stronger than the Wiesel 1, with advanced features for the protection of the crew such as enhanced armour, an air conditioning system, and NBC protection. The Wiesel has been used in several of the Bundeswehr’s missions abroad (UNOSOM II, IFOR, SFOR, KFOR, TFH, ISAF).