At the behest of the German government Rheinmetall is supplying Ukraine with SurveilSPIRE automated mobile reconnaissance systems in co-operation with Estonia’s DefSecIntel, the German company announced on 28 February 2023.

The Estonian company describes its SurveilSPIRE system as an “integrated trailer-based solution with mast, radar, long-range camera, drone nest, ultra-fast drones and automated AI detection with [a] renewable energy source”. The system consists of mobile surveillance towers with day- and night-capable cameras, autopiloted mini-unmanned aerial vehicles (mini-UAVs) and a control system.

Rheinmetall stated in its press release that the delivery to Ukraine includes transport vehicles and “has already commenced” under a contract “worth a figure in the double-digit-million-euro range”.

The SurveilSPIRE system is primarily used to monitor large areas of terrain with as few personnel as possible. It relies on autopiloted reconnaissance UAVs that conduct patrols and mission-specific flights, allowing inspection of detected threats and the initiation of necessary countermeasures.

The system’s surveillance towers, meanwhile, can be loaded onto trailers and quickly transported to their area of operation. Assembly requires three personnel, while operation is fully automated.

A SurveilSPIRE trailer with its surveillance tower deployed. Rheinmetall is assisting Estonia’s DefSecIntel supply the system to Ukraine. (Photo credit: DefSecIntel)

The system includes wireless links (4G and Starlink) for video transmission to a mobile command post, with solar panels enabling sustained operation without power cables or a fuel source.

Rheinmetall noted in its press release that the company is already taking part in several projects in support of Ukraine’s armed forces. On behalf of the German government, for example, Rheinmetall subsidiary Zeppelin Mobile Systeme is supplying Ukraine this year with a turnkey field hospital, while Ukraine is also to receive 26 new high-mobility HX swap-body trucks produced by Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles.

Rheinmetall is also a partner in multiple multilateral ‘Ringtausch’ transactions. This procedure, developed by the German government, is designed to support the Ukrainian war effort in co-operation with Germany’s European neighbours and NATO partners, under which NATO member states transfer Soviet-era equipment to Ukraine in exchange for surplus Western-made systems.

Peter Felstead