Milrem Robotics unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) THeMIS, was used by Estonia's military Infantry units from the 32nd Platoon (ESTPLA-32) to patrol the streets of Gao, Mali.
This is the first time the UGV was used tactically in a conflict environment to support troops, the patrol also monitored the reactions of local residents in the vicinity of the unmanned ground vehicle.
According to Lieutenant Madis Pärnpuu who participated in the activity, he said: "We are currently conducting our first attempts to involve UGVs in patrols, identifying and eliminating both technical and procedural bottlenecks, and testing various options for using UGVs and integrating the unit into operations."
Soldiers and technicians from Estonia were deployed to Mali in May 2019, in support of French Operation Barkhane for a period of five months. Following their deployment, Estonia personnel were tasked to provide security of the French base in Gao and its vicinity.
Operation Barkhane is a French led counter-insurgency operation in the Sahel region. Its aim at supporting the fight against Islamic extremists in five countries (Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad). This operation will also prevent illegal immigration and trafficking in Europe.
The Tracked Hybrid Modular Infantry System, or THeMIS for short, is the first hybrid fully modular unmanned ground vehicle in the world. The vehicle is intended to provide support for dismounted troops by serving as a transport platform, remote weapon station, IED detection and disposal unit, and much more.
The THeMIS can be outfitted with small- or large-calibre weapon systems, but can also serve as an IED detection and disposal platform.
Also, the THeMIS Transport is intended to support dismounted troops by carrying everything a soldier would normally carry, thus letting the fighter concentrate on the mission at hand.
Additional THeMIS system and personnel is slated to arrive in Mali by 2020.
Operators of the THeMIS system noted that Mali is an ideal place to test new technology. And that along with supporting the Operation Barkhane, they have received a wealth of valuable feedback on operational reliability, ease of use, and tactical use of the vehicle.
Jüri Pajuste, reserve captain of Milrem Robotics Defense Programs Division, who has participated in the mission in Afghanistan also disclosed that the information gathered from Mali will be used by the company in further development work to improve UGV and make it an even better tool for the units.
Milrem Robotics range of UGVs will also support the Mali mission in 2020, when additional vehicle combat systems are being considered.