The Commonwealth has announced a $12.2 million investment into the development of additional unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) and associated research for the Australian Army.
The August 8 announcement says 16 more M113AS4 armoured personnel carriers (APC) will be converted to an optionally crewed combat vehicle (OCCV) configuration by BAE Systems. The first four OCCV M113s were built and trialled in late 2019, and proved they could be successfully integrated into an armoured force.
“These technologies are ‘disruptive technologies’ that provide marked advantages on the modern battlefield by bolstering ADF capability while protecting Australian personnel,” Defence Minister Senator Linda Reynolds said in the statement. “In the 2020 Force Structure Plan, I set out how Defence plans to seize these opportunities through greater development and implementation of robotic and autonomous systems.”
In addition to the M113AS4 conversions, an additional $3.5 million contract has been awarded to the Institute for Intelligent Research and Innovation (IISRI) at Deakin University for the expansion of Army’s leader-follower vehicle technology prototyping.
The Commonwealth has also awarded $897,000 to EPE for small wheeled robots to experiment with human and machine teaming in reconnaissance roles, and has made a $135,000 investment with QinetiQ Australia for the modelling of the value of conversion of a Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle (PMV) to hybrid-electric drive.
“These are exciting times for developing world-class, cutting-edge technology right here in Australia,” Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price added. “We are investing $12 million to boost Defence’s experience and understanding of new and emerging technologies in partnership with Australian industry and academia.
“There is a global increase in the use of these types of technologies and investments like these ensure both Defence and Australian industry are well positioned to take advantage and further develop these state-of-the-art technologies.”
These investments highlight a growing awareness within Army and the wider ADF of the potential value of integrating unmanned ground vehicles into a joint force.