Royal Netherlands Army commences armed robot trials in first among Western militaries

by Alexander Stronell

Armed THeMIS UGVs undergoing trials with the Royal Netherlands Army in Lithuania, October 2022. (Dutch MoD)

The Royal Netherlands Army has become the first Western military to begin operational trials with armed unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), Janes has learned.

Four armed THeMIS UGVs were deployed with the Netherlands' 13th Light Brigade to Lithuania on 12 September, Lieutenant Colonel Sjoerd Mevissen, commander of the Royal Netherlands Army's Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) unit, told Janes . The UGVs are currently undergoing trials with a view to developing and refining doctrine at the platoon level.

“We have deployed four weaponised [unmanned] machines within an operational experiment”, Lt Col Mevissen said. “To my knowledge, we have not seen this before in the West”.

He continued, “The machines have been handed over for experimental use in an operational unit in a military-relevant environment. These are not simply tests on a training ground. We are under the direct eyes and ears of the Russians, and as such in a semi-operational environment.”

An announcement by the Dutch Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirming the deployment was released on 14 October.

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UK scraps additional A400M buy as ‘unaffordable'

by Gareth Jennings

The RAF will not receive additional A400M airlifters, with the UK National Audit Office saying the plan is unaffordable. (Janes/Gareth Jennings)

The United Kingdom has scrapped plans to acquire additional Airbus A400M Atlas airlifters, saying it is no longer affordable.

The National Audit Office (NAO) made the disclosure in its ‘The Equipment Plan 2022 to 2032' report, published on 30 November, reversing the Ministry of Defence's (MoD's) announcement in February that it was seeking to add to the 22 aircraft already contracted.

“An option to purchase additional A400M aircraft was assessed as unaffordable. Air Command is developing an affordable choice to improve A400M availability. Some funding is held centrally,” the report said.

Although costings were not included in the equipment plan report, the NAO had previously said that the additional purchase will be valued at GBP750 million (USD899 billion). This would likely equate to eight aircraft to bring the fleet up to 30 A400Ms.


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BAE developing augmented reality for Hawk

by Gareth Jennings

The Hawk is set to receive augmented reality technology, under an MOU signed by BAE Systems and Red 6. (BAE Systems)

BAE Systems is developing augmented reality (AR) to enhance the training value of its Hawk advanced jet trainer (AJT), the company announced on 30 November.

For the project, BAE Systems has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Red 6, an AR technology firm specialising in synthetic air combat training.

“BAE Systems will collaborate with Red 6 to explore the integration of the Advanced Tactical Augmented Reality Systems (ATARS) onto the Hawk,” the announcement said. “This will enable pilots to identify, engage, and defeat virtual threats and co-operate with virtual wingmen whilst airborne.”

As said by BAE Systems, the collaboration will explore ways to combine its experience in delivering training to military forces alongside its expertise with Striker helmet-mounted displays used on Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab Gripen combat aircraft, with Red 6's ATARS technology.


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Update: Royal Australian Navy to acquire Bluebottle USVs

by Julian Kerr & Oishee Majumdar

When deployed, the solar sail of the Bluebottle (pictured) harnesses both solar and wind energy. In headwinds or winds more than 25 kt, the solar sail automatically folds onto the deck of the USV. (Ocius)

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is acquiring five Bluebottle unmanned surface vessels (USVs) to enhance its ability to experiment and advance the operational employment of uncrewed systems under, on, and above the water.

Disclosing a AUD4.9 million (USD3.3 million) contract with Sydney-based Ocius Technologies, Rear Admiral Peter Quinn, head of the Navy Capability in the RAN, said on 25 November that this represented a significant investment in sovereign industry capability to advance the ability of the RAN to effectively employ robotic and autonomous systems.

“We have vast areas that we need to patrol, which we can't do with a small number of crewed ships. We have to and will be investing in uncrewed platforms that will be out there persistently conducting surveillance,'' he said.

The 22 ft solar, wind, and wave-powered vessels would be used in developing new uncrewed underwater systems technology, and as testbeds for above-water and low-water surveillance, he said.

Ocius CEO Robert Dane told Janes


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The Royal Netherlands Army has become the first Western military to begin operational trials with ar...

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