South Korea’s defense procurement agency has given full-scale development go-ahead for an unmanned ground surveillance vehicle (USV) following successful completion of exploratory development.
In March 2021, the USV reached Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 regarding key unmanned technologies, including self-driving, obstacle detection/avoidance, and surveillance. TRL 6 is the key condition to go ahead with full-scale systems.
Hanwha Defense is responsible for developing the unmanned wheeled vehicle and integrating communication and surveillance systems into the 6x6 platform. The development of the 6x6 USV is led by the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) affiliated with the Defense Acquisition Program administration (DAPA).
It is the first time globally that a mid- to large-sized unmanned ground combat vehicle has moved into the systems development stage, Hanwha defense claimed.
“This unmanned surveillance vehicle can be used to remotely lead mechanized units across a variety of terrains, including roads, off-road, and unpaved roads,” a Hanwha Defense spokesman said. “The vehicle is designed to conduct operations such as reconnaissance, target guidance and even engagement with the enemy.”
The USV exploratory development commenced in 2018 with a focus on testing and evaluating operational capabilities as well as the readiness of key technologies. During the latest field trials conducted between last December and February, the unmanned robotics system successfully met key operational requirements sufficiently to be deployed in the military.
Powered by hybrid power systems, the USV is to work either by remote control or autonomously. The vehicle features sophisticated unmanned functions such as follow-me, travel-route control, obstacle detection/avoidance, and path planning in the case of communication loss.
The vehicle is armed with a machine gun mounted on a remote-controlled weapon station developed by Hanwha Defense. The platform can be reconfigured for other missions with the installation of different equipment like a detection device and drone for communications relay.
In 2019, Hanwha Defense completed the development of a 4x4 multi-purpose unmanned ground vehicle, the first of its kind in South Korea, to support infantry troops in different combat situations. The 1.5-ton vehicle operates on electricity to perform multiple missions, such as surveillance, logistics transport, evacuation of casualties, and combat engagement.
A newer 6x6 version, dubbed the Intelligence UGV, is set to be unveiled in July ahead of pilot operations in the Army’s drone-bot combat unit. The Intelligent UGV is to showcase upgraded performances, as it would have a payload capacity of 500 kg and a cruising radius of 100 km.