Estonia’s military is deploying the THeMIS unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) to Mali, where it will join peacekeeping forces there for support and surveillance missions.
This was revealed during the Xponential 2019 exhibition last month. Estonia’s Forte reported that a rotation of 30 Estonian soldiers arrived in Mali in mid-April and were to be joined by the Milrem Robotics Tracked Hybrid Modular Infantry System (THeMIS) UGV.
Gert Hankewitz, the Export Manager for Milrem Robotics, said the THeMIS vehicles will not carry weapons but will be used to support soldiers in the field and reduce the physical loads they have to carry. The vehicles will be deployed for five months.
For the surveillance/situational awareness role, the UGVs will carry Threod Systems’ KX4-LE Titan unmanned quadcopter, which can reach a height of 80 metres when tethered to the THeMIS. According to Jane’s Defence Weekly, this can carry an electro-optical sensor payload weighing up to 4 kg so that it can relay geo-referenced surveillance imagery. Power is transmitted through the tether for increased endurance of the unmanned aerial vehicle.
The Mali deployment marks the first THeMIS operational deployment, as the UGV has only previously been used in local and international exercises, including Autonomous Warrior. Experience gained from the Mali deployment will be used to further development.
The THeMIS is a fully modular diesel-electric unmanned ground vehicle that can operate up to 10 hours with a full tank, including up to 1.5 hours in silent mode. It has a top speed of 22 km/h and can carry a payload of 750 kg. It can be operated line of sight, via cameras or equipped with an autonomy kit for fully autonomous operation.
Milrem Robotics is an Estonian defence solutions provider whose primary focus is the manufacture of unmanned ground vehicles, development of robotic warfare solutions and performing concept of operations and doctrine level warfare analysis.
The company recently partnered with MBDA to unveil in February what they called the world’s first anti-tank unmanned ground vehicle. This incorporates MBDA’s IMPACT (Integrated MMP Precision Attack Combat Turret) system fitted with two MMP 5th generation battlefield engagement missiles and a self-defence machine gun.
Estonian soldiers first arrived in Mali in August 2018, joining French and British forces in Gao. They rotate every four months. In March last year, the Estonian government requested parliament approve the deployment of 50 soldiers to Mali for one year as part of the French-led Operation Barkhane. Estonia also contributes to the EU Training Mission in Mali and the United Nation’s Minusma peacekeeping mission.