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On January 6th, the South Korean company Hanwha Defense Systems released a promotional video showing off its Tactical Unmanned Ground Vehicle.
It is essentially a ground-based combat robotic system for various purposes, and it is entirely indigenous designed.
The promotional video demonstrates: a ground-based robotic complex for observation and reconnaissance, a ground-based multifunctional robotic complex for direct support on the battlefield and a robotic complex for demining.
Back in November 2020, South Korea’s arms procurement agency signed a contract commissioning a local defense firm to develop a robot capable of detecting and removing land mines and other explosives with indigenous technology.
Under the 18 billion-won (US$16 million) project, Hanwha Defense plans to develop a robot capable of patrolling the mine-strewn Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the border with North Korea and other dangerous areas, detecting and eliminating explosives, according to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).
Hanwha has carried out preliminary research since 2017 and secured key technologies, the DAPA said
“Currently, the military uses potable mine detectors and imported robots of this kind. But the detectors could cause damage to troops who operate the gadgets and importing the robots costs a lot,” the procurement agency said.
“The envisioned home-grown robot is expected to prevent loss of human life and raise chances of successfully detecting explosives so as to help boost our defense capabilities,” it added.
The small, track wheel‐type robot will be equipped with advanced, diverse equipment, such as an X-ray fluoroscope, a shotgun and a cable cutting machine, and can be operated remotely, according to Hanwha.
The development is expected to be completed by June 2023 and will be put in operational deployment as early as 2024, according to officials.
The English version of the Hanwha Defense Systems website contains limited information, primarily focused on unmanned turrets that can be mounted on various armored vehicles.
The Korean, original website, however, contains information on a Defense Robot, with the following description:
“Hanwha Defense is committed to realizing a complex combat system that minimizes loss of life in future battlefields.
We are developing defense robots and leading the development of cutting-edge core technologies.”
It has 6 systems listed, as follows:
- Multipurpose unmanned vehicle – In high-risk battlefield situations, it is possible to perform remote search and reconnaissance missions by using unmanned vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles, and control devices, and limited autonomous operation. It is a weapon system to improve the survivability and combat power of infantry units through support for transporting high-load combat materials.
- Unmanned Search Vehicle – It is a medium/large combat robot system capable of remotely performing search/reconnaissance, fire guidance and engagement missions by leading mechanized units in tactical road, field and unpaved road environments, and it can be used as perimeter defense on garrison and facilities of significant importance. It is under development by the Defense Science Research Institute.
- Small reconnaissance robot – It is a small surveillance and alert robot that can be used to scout for soldiers during operations in which they are under threat of ambush and enables efficient mission execution through scientific surveillance. It is under development by the Defense Science Research Institute.
- Mine detection and removal robot – It operates remotely to support attack and defensive operations of mobile units in urban and mountainous areas. It is a small unmanned robot system for surveillance and reconnaissance, detection and indication of threat and prediction of positions of land mines and improvised explosives, and path development.
- IED detection/removal robot – It is a Korean-style improvised explosive (IED) detection/removal robot that can be operated by one soldier and is composed of a field-operated mobile platform, multi-degree of freedom operation arm, and terminal device.
- Smart Grenade (SG) robot – It is a robot that can be used for precision strike missions by detecting enemies and terrorists through surveillance and reconnaissance, and remotely operating mounted tear gas or HE bombs from a close range.
The systems all seem quite capable, and it appears that South Korea is planning on entering the unmanned systems market at full speed.
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