Japan ground forces expand trials on uncrewed systems

The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) will acquire more uncrewed aerial and ground vehicles (UAVs and UGVs) for testing and evaluation, the service announced on its social media account on 26 March.

The latest initiative is aimed at developing effective operational concepts that will support widespread adoption of uncrewed aerial and ground systems within the JGSDF, it added.

“In order to fundamentally strengthen defence capabilities, [we are] working to strengthen unmanned capabilities, such as reconnaissance and transportation, in order to gain advantages in the air and on the ground while limiting personnel risk,” the JGSDF stated.

“We will conduct demonstrations using UAVs and UGVs that can operate continuously for long periods of time in missions, and accelerate consideration toward full-scale introduction,” it added.

According to the JGSDF, it is already testing the Fuji IMVAC E-5L UAV supplied by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) but also in the process of acquiring and fielding UGVs such as the tracked THeMIS manufactured by Estonian company Milrem, the six-wheeled Mission Master SP manufactured by Rheinmetall Canada, and the Vision60 quadrupedal UGV manufactured by Ghost Robotics. The UGVs will be delivered to the JGSDF by several local suppliers including trading house Marubeni Aerospace Company Ltd and technology company ST.Japan Inc.

Earlier in January, the JGSDF’s Ground Material Control Command (GMCC) announced competitive tenders for concept demonstrations of two types of cargo UAVs. The GMCC has also actively invited bids for a diverse array of projects including capability upgrades for reconnaissance UAVs, concept demonstrations for a multi-role fixed wing UAV, as well as technical assessments related to communications for disaster response UAVs.

Some of the JGSDF’s recently acquired uncrewed systems have already been put to the test in actual operations. For example, several Ghost Robotics Vision60 UGVs were used to survey evacuation routes for residents affected by the Noto Earthquake in January. The UGVs were also used to support relocation of displaced residents to secondary evacuation centres outside the affected areas.

by Jr Ng