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Jack Richardson

The THeMIS UGV has completed its first deployment to Mali with the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF). Manufactured by Estonian firm Milrem Robotics, THeMIS was initially deployed to Mali with the EDF during a French led counter-terrorism operation in April 2020, after which it was used regularly during patrols by Estonian soldiers. Altogether, three Estonian platoons utilised the vehicle during their deployments for missions such as transporting supplies to their base.

“Partitioned urban areas can be challenging, and one cannot always depend on Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) support. The opportunity to bring along a half-ton of ammunition and water to places unreachable with an APC added great value to patrols and enhanced combat capability,” said Lt Col Sten Allik, Senior Staff Officer of the EDF. “The THeMIS surprised us with its ability to withstand the tough environment. The heat and harsh terrain put the vehicle to the test; however, it passed with ease,” Allik added.

A valuable capability

During the deployment, the UGV was operation for over 330 hours and traversed 1200km in one of the world’s harshest environments of lava rock soil and climates climbing to 50 degrees celsius in the shade. “We collected a lot of valuable data and feedback during the deployment and although [the] EDF’s experience with the THeMIS was positive, there is always room for improvement,” said Kuldar Väärsi, CEO of Milrem Robotics. “However, after this experience in Mali, we are confident that the THeMIS is more than capable of supporting operations in extremely hot climates,” Väärsi added.

Going forward, the EDF would like to utilise the THeMIS together with additional Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance equipment, communication support, jamming, and Remote Weapon System capabilities. “The possibility to detect and neutralise the enemy or an explosive device from a distance is a crucial capability. It is easier to risk the vehicle than a human life. If we can reduce the risk to life in combat situations, we can increase operational speed,” Allik said. Milrem Robotics will continue to support the EDF in future mission areas and is currently preparing for future deployments as early as the end of this year.