An Estonian infantry platoon has deployed Milrem Robotic’s TheMIS UGV for the first time while on operation in Mali.

The deployment is the first time the UGV has been used during a military operation outside of testing and exercises. Troops will assess how the UGV performs from a ‘tactical and a technical viewpoint’.

Estonian Army Lieutenant Madis Pärnpuu said: “Deploying an unmanned vehicle will allow units to increase their combat power, as it reduces the physical load to soldiers and allows additional supplies to be included in an operation such as heavy weaponry, additional water and ammunition that could not be transported without the vehicle.”

Previously the Estonian armed forces had used the UGV to transport goods around their base.

Pärnpuu added: “We are currently using the UGV on patrols to identify and eliminate both technical and procedural bottlenecks, and test different ways of using it and integrating it into our tactics.”

Mali’s rough terrain and high temperatures make it an ideal place to stress test the UGV, pushing the system’s manoeuvrability to its limits. The system has been previously cold weather tested by the Estonian Armed Forces during European exercises.

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Milrem Robotics defence division president General Riho Terras said: “Mali is the perfect place to test new technology. In addition to supporting our troops, we have received a great deal of valuable feedback from Operation Barkhane on the reliability, ease of use and tactical use of the vehicle.”

Milrem said it will use data collected in Mali to further develop the system, and added that the TheMIS is the only tracked UGV of its size to be used on operation. The UGV will continue to be deployed in Mali by Estonian forces through till the end of this year and in 2020.

The TheMIS UGV is billed as a modular system that can deliver a range of different payloads from offensive capabilities to search and rescue tools.