Rheinmetall has announced the launch of Australia’s Autonomous Combat Warrior (ACW) program that aims to build an automated military vehicle.
The ACW project is the first Australian research and technology program.
“Under the Autonomous Combat Warrior (ACW) program, Rheinmetall’s Australian, German and Canadian development teams will work alongside research teams from Defence Science and Technology (DST) group, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT),” the company said in a statement Thursday.
The aim is to develop advanced sovereign robotics and automated vehicle technologies. This will create a local automated military vehicle capability, Rheinmetall said.
“ACW’s goal is to fundamentally change the way in which land vehicles support military operations by transforming a vehicle from tool to teammate to provide currently unachievable levels of soldier protection, support and tactical advantage,” Mr Stewart said. “This will see the Australian development of the next generation of land vehicle systems warfighting capability, with an emphasis on developing trusted automated systems which provide human-machine teaming and optional crewed control.”
The program will focus on the automation of driving capabilities. “Humans must retain the power of decision and therefore Rheinmetall rejects fully autonomous weapon systems that deprive humans of the power to decide whether or not to use weapons against other humans.”
Rheinmetall’s contribution to the program will take place across its Australian, Canadian and German businesses with the focus of research to take place at the company’s Melbourne operations and its new Military Vehicle Centre of Excellence in Redbank, Queensland which is due for completion in the second half of 2020.
One of the objectives of the ACW research is to develop platform agnostic Autonomous Kit (A-kit) suited for integration into a variety of road and off-road military vehicles. The Autonomous driving vehicle capability (A-kit) currently integrated into Mission Master Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) provides the base software architecture for all future stages of the ACW research program and provides the autonomous capabilities including robotic vehicle control (robotic control or semi-autonomous); “follow me” control (semi-autonomous); simultaneous localisation and mapping); autonomous waypoint navigation (semi or full autonomous); and GPS allowed/denied navigation (semi or full autonomous).
Upgrade works of two Wiesel 2 digital vehicles with drive-by-wire architecture and autonomous driving A-Kit package is currently underway. These vehicles, when upgraded with Australian advanced autonomous applied research under the ACW Program, will be used to demonstrate the vehicle-agnostic and integrated payload capabilities of Rheinmetall’s Advanced A-Kit.