The Army’s M113AS4 Armoured personnel carriers (APCs) are well past their prime when it comes to transporting soldiers safely on the modern battlefield. But they could still form the basis of a capable autonomous land vehicle to demonstrate the technology of the future.
BAE Systems Australia and the Australian Army plan to modify two M113AS4 armoured personnel carriers at the company’s Edinburgh Parks facility in Adelaide, using autonomous technologies developed in Australia.
The project will see these vehicles used by the Army to conduct experiments to better understand opportunities to employ autonomous vehicles on the battlefield. Such self-driving vehicles could have a range of uses, from intelligence gathering to logistics support.
The Army possesses a substantial fleet of M113 APCs, taking delivery of the first of more than 700 in 1965, and many of these subsequently served in Vietnam, Somalia, Rwanda and Timor Leste.
A total of 431 have since been upgraded and designed M113AS4. But soon these vehicles will be replaced by new and substantially larger and more survivable infantry fighting vehicles to be acquired under Project LAND 400 Phase 3.
Although no longer providing adequate levels of protection for their crews, their systems are reliable and well understood, and so they are well suited to the testing and development of autonomous systems.
In a statement, BAE Systems Australia Chief Technology Officer Brad Yelland said autonomous technology would assist soldiers to respond in an accelerating warfare environment, increasing their ability to outpace, out-manoeuvre and out-think conventional and unconventional threats.
“The Australian Army Robotic and Autonomous Systems Strategy highlights the goals that Army is seeking from this disruptive technology,” he said. “Through this demonstration and the CRC program, we will help the Army achieve that.”
Following the planned trials, the two test vehicles which will remain optionally manned, will be available for BAE Systems and other partners in the trusted autonomous systems Defence Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) to use for further development.