Earlier this year, Rheinmetall unveiled a new, weaponised unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) – the MISSION MASTER – PROTECTION (MM-P) – clearly demonstrating its capabilities at the Overberg Test Range in South Africa.
The company took the opportunity presented by Ammunition Capability Demonstration 2019 (ACD2019), one of the world’s largest liv-fire demonstrations, to show the UGV’s firepower to delegations from 53 nations. Armed with the Rheinmetall FIELDRANGER MULTI weapon station, equipped with Thales 70mm rocket launchers, the MM-P fired a salvo of 14 rockets, delivering 60 kg of explosives on target in 1.6 seconds. “We are probably the first to use an air-to-ground system in a ground-to-ground role, definitely the first to do it from a UGV,” commented Rheinmetall Canada’s Vice President for Business Development, Alain Tremblay.
After a month of tests and live-fire trials in South Africa with the new payload, Rheinmetall was able to field a perfectly-mounted and stabilised weapon system at the demonstration. This achievement was made possible in part by involving an important partner. “Thales demonstrated a very high level of professionalism. Our technical collaboration helped us take a major step forward,” declared Mr Tremblay. With the qualification process complete, the combination of the FIELDRANGER MULTI and the 70mm rocket launcher meets the full array of military standards and is now ready to be installed on other platforms and armoured vehicles. The MISSION MASTER – PROTECTION can also be mounted with 50mm weapon systems, .50 cal. machine guns and 40mm grenade launchers.
Operations at Overberg used a remotely-controlled system, operating in a fully digitised scenario, with fire controlled via the Rheinmetall ARGUS soldier system – quite possibly a world first. Rheinmetall and Thales both stressed the need for a man-in-the-loop configuration, meaning that the operator has full control of the weapon system, from target acquisition all the way through to final fire authorisation.
Just as armed unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have had a revolutionary impact in air warfare, all indications suggest that the number of armed UGVs will continue to grow quickly in ground operations. With field tests taking place around the world, including the deployment in Syria of Russia’s URAN-9 weaponised UGV in May 2018, numerous nations have come to appreciate the potential of armed UGVs.
As demonstrated at ACD2019 with the MISSION MASTER – PROTECTION, a weaponised UGV opens up a wide range of new possibilities. While minimising the risk to friendly forces, it substantially boosts the combat power of dismounted troops by providing close fire support. It can also conduct autonomous high-risk military tasks in today’s complex battlespace.