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Rheinmetall has unveiled the Autonomous Combat Warrior (ACW) WIESEL and demonstrated various capabilities on an off-road course in Australia. As Russell Gallagher, Chief Engineer – Research & Technology, Rheinmetall Australia, explained, the ACW WIESEL is Rheinmetall’s first platform-independent autonomous vehicle. He said the autonomous system could be integrated with any wheeled or tracked vehicle such as:

  • HX series trucks
  • the LYNX family of vehicles

The top priority was to improve the safety of soldiers, he said.

According to Rheinmetall, the ACW WIESEL was developed over two years in cooperation with research services of the Australian Departments of Defence and Economic Affairs and two Australian universities. The vehicle is based on the WIESEL 2 with an 81-kW VW diesel, which drives the tracked running gear with four track rollers on both sides via a hydromechanical torque converter.

The autonomous system allows operation in several modes. It allows manual control on site and enables remote-controlled operation. In autonomous mode, the vehicle travels along pre-programmed waypoints and can avoid obstacles. There is also a follow-on mode, in which the vehicle follows a lead vehicle in convoy mode or preceding soldiers.

Gallagher describes the autonomous system as the brain for mapping waypoints and managing the flow of data from the sensors. To translate this into vehicle functions, he says, a system is used to control the engine and transmission, which controls throttle response, brakes and steering via Rheinmetall’s proprietary drive-by-wire system.

To complement the autonomous capabilities, systems for recognising the behaviour of soldiers ahead, for terrain recognition using computer vision and advanced LIDAR technology, and to make tactical decisions based on environmental conditions, can be retrofitted to the ACW WIESEL.