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Chinese military developing unmanned supply truck

18 July 2017
A still from a video released by the MND in Beijing showing what appears to be a prototype of an unmanned supply truck being developed for the Chinese military. Source: Chinese MND

The Chinese military is developing an unmanned supply truck. Video footage recently released by the Ministry of National Defense (MND) in Beijing shows what appears to be a prototype of an 8x8 unmanned supply truck conducting trials at an undisclosed location demonstrating its ability to navigate obstacles and control speed.

The footage, which does not provide further details about the truck or the programme, is part of an English-language video entitled ‘PLA Today’ that showcases China’s growing military capabilities, including in so-called battlefield smart supply vehicles.

The MND released the video on 16 July, two weeks ahead of the 90th birthday of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

The prototype shown in the footage appears to be somewhat similar in appearance to the US 8x8 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT).

In the past China has used technology from Western suppliers as the base for its logistics vehicles. For example the SX2300, which is built by the Shaanxi Automotive company, is based on technology from Steyr, and Shaanxi also signed a co-operation deal with Germany-based truck manufacturer MAN in 2003.

The result is that the origins of the new unmanned vehicle are uncertain. However, the prototype does appear to be optionally manned, and may employ a leader-following system or way points and GPS to navigate roads.

Forerunners to this prototype include the Norinco Crew Task Support Unmanned Mobile Platform, which is capable of autonomous operation, teleoperation, follower behaviour, and waypoint navigation. With this technology already having been developed and tested by the Chinese defence industry, it is possible that the system has been transplanted onto the recently shown prototype truck for trials.

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