Australia Kickstarts Autonomous Military Vehicle Program

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A European defense contractor has recently announced the launch of Australia’s Autonomous Combat Warrior (ACW) program that aims to build an autonomous military vehicle. The ACW project comes as the first Australian research and technology program.

As part of the ACW program, Rheinmetall’s Australian, German, and Canadian development teams will work alongside research teams from several other organizations including the Defence, Science, and Technology (DST) group, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Queensland University of Technology, and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

The main goal of the ACW program is to fundamentally change the way ground vehicles support soldiers and military operations. The concept is to convert a military vehicle from a tool to a teammate in order to provide higher levels of soldier support, protection, and tactical readiness. The program will help push Australian development efforts of next generation warfighting ground vehicles, with an emphasis on the development of autonomous systems, capable of providing Australian forces with manned-unmanned capabilities.

The program will focus a lot of its automation on the vehicle’s driving capabilities. Rheinmetall believes that “humans must retain the power of decision and therefore Rheinmetall rejects fully autonomous weapon systems that deprive humans of the power to decide whether or not to use weapons against other humans.”

Another goal for the ACW program’s research team is to develop an Autonomous Kit (A-kit) that will allow for the autonomous integration of road and off-road military vehicles. The A-kit provides the base software architecture for all future stages of the ACW research program, according to The kit provides both autonomous and semi-autonomous control.

Currently work is being done to upgrade 2 Wiesel digital vehicles to a drive-by-wire configuration in order to implement the A-kit package. Once upgraded, these vehicles will be used to demonstrate the capabilities of Rheinmetall’s Advanced A-kit.