French army first experiments GACI mule UGVs in external operation


In October 2020, it had been expected that the 1st Régiment de Tirailleurs (1 RTir, an infantry regiment) was going to be the first unit of the French Army to use “mule” robots during an external operation, Mali in the occurrence, where it was to form the backbone of the "Lamy" Desert Tactical Group, Laurent Lagneau reports on Zone Militaire/Opex360.
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Robopex GACI, a UGV manufactured by GACI Rugged Systems, associated with the Israeli Roboteam. (Picture source: French Army/Armée de Terre)


Last April 20, the French Army indicated that four ground drone mules had just arrived at Gao (Mali) to be the subject of an experiment within the GTD (Desert Tactical Group) "Bison". "This is the first time that the French army is experimenting with ground drones in outdoor operations," said battalion commander (major) Jean-Charles, project team leader at "Battle Lab Terre".

The UGV model now tested by the GTD Bison is Robopex GACI, a robot offered by the SME GACI Rugged Systems, associated with the Israeli Roboteam. Emmanuel Chiva, the director of the Defense Innovation Agency (AID), said: “We launched a European competition to acquire a robot and test it in operation. The SME winning the competition is not Israeli but 100% French. It offered to assemble Israeli-sourced mechanical and electronic components in France, in the same way that a company uses Chinese-sourced components to assemble a computer”, Chiva argued.

The Robopex is capable of carrying a load of 750 kg for eight hours, at a speed of 8 km/h". The challenge is to see if such robot mules meet the needs of the Barkhane force in a theater as demanding as the Sahel. More will be known by the end of GTD Bison's mandate, which is three months, Laurent Lagneau concludes. "This is the first time that the French army has experimented with ground drones in outdoor operations," said battalion commander (major) Jean-Charles, project team leader at "Battle Lab Terre".

The fact that a mule robot is deployed in Gao is not unprecedented, however. The Estonian infantry detachment used the THeMis from Milrem Robotics there for several months and the feedback has been very positive, the UGV having traveled 1,200 km for more than 330 hours of operation, in very difficult conditions.


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The model tested by the GTD Bison in Mali is Robopex GACI, a UGV manufactured GACI Rugged Systems, associated with the Israeli Roboteam. (Picture source: French Army/Armée de Terre)


 

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