JERUSALEM — Israel Aerospace Industries and U.K. firm Marlborough Communications Limited will deliver four Remote Platoon Vehicles to the British Defence Ministry as part of an experimental program for unmanned systems.
The ministry’s Future Capability Group wants to identify future military requirements of unmanned ground vehicles, or UGV, through a series of trials.
Marlborough was previously awarded a contract to supply four Mission Adaptable Platform System unmanned ground vehicles to the Spiral 1 phase of the RPV Experimentation Program, according to a Sept. 1 statement from IAI. The latest RPV platforms, which are part of Spiral 2, will be designed and manufactured by Elta Systems.
Marlborough, a supplier of advanced telecommunications systems, said this is its first contract with IAI.
“Securing the Spiral 2 contract has been a collaborative team effort, and the first step toward exploring new opportunities within the U.K.,” said MCL Managing Director Shane Knight.
IAI says it has more than 15 years’ experience developing autonomous land systems. It recently demonstrated new developments in an autonomous ground combat vehicle for the Israel Defense Forces.
The RPVs being delivered to the British are equipped with target acquisition sensors, electronic countermeasures and weapons stations. They are designed to complement troops on the ground and enhance their force protection in battlefield conditions, IAI said in a statement.
”In addition to their intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) capabilities, the RPVs can provide logistic support by carrying platoon equipment, supplying ammunition and extracting casualties. They can be operated in manual, remote or autonomous modes,” the company added.
Israel’s military already uses the Jaguar, a semiautonomous robotic system developed by the IDF and IAI. It is designed to substitute soldiers in border areas and is part of a wider IDF push into digitization and unmanned vehicles.
“The ‘Jaguar’ is currently being integrated into the Gaza Division in southern Israel in order to protect the Israeli-Gaza border. Equipped with dozens of sensors, an automated driving system, advanced fire capabilities, and a public address (PA) system, this robot makes the IDF a more efficient and technologically advanced military,” the IDF said in April. The system has a 7.62mm machine gun and runs on six wheels.
IAI’s Elta also makes the Rex, a four-wheeled UGV designed to support and augment ground forces. It can carry 350 kilograms. The photo IAI supplied with the announcement of the MCL contract shows a four-wheeled vehicle, but IAI did not specify the name of the vehicle or expand on more specifics about it.
IAI says it will showcase its ground robotics, such as its UGVs, at the upcoming arms trade show DSEI in London. “We see the European and British markets as a significant market and are happy to promote local technological and business collaborations. In a volatile, rapidly changing world, it is vital that we do all we can to assist with each other’s security, economic development and prosperity,” said Boaz Levy, President and CEO of IAI.
In the U.K., IAI also partners with Thales on the Sea Serpent anti-ship missile.
Previous UGVs in Israel, such as the Guardium by G-Nius, have struggled to find widespread use. However, Israel’s Carmel future combat vehicle program envisions optionally manned vehicles and vehicle motherships for UGVs. Israel’s Epsilor, which makes batteries, supplies the NATO-standard Combatt lithium-ion 6T batteries for the Jaguar. Epsilor says the British government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory tested the batteries during an evaluation for an upcoming armored vehicle program by the MoD.
Seth Frantzman has been covering conflict in the Middle East since 2010 as a researcher, analyst and correspondent for different publications. He has experience covering the international coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and he is a co-founder and executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.