The IDF is known for its use of technology to help solve life and death problems. One of those technologies being used today is the UGV or Unmanned Ground Vehicle.
Named Guardium, it is an autonomous observation and target intercept system that was developed by G-NIUS Autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicles joint venture company established by Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems. The Guardium system employs an autonomous system which can be operated from a command center to carry out routine patrols and quickly respond to evolving emergencies.
A new initiative by the IDF that began in 2008, the Guardium has seen a gradual introduction to everyday service. A result of a joint program between Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Industries, the Guardium is one of the first regularly operating unmanned security vehicles in the world.
The unit began as a small group of combat engineers who were assigned to a one-year pilot program. “When we first started operating the Guardium, it had its issues. It broke down constantly, and often needed to be rescued,” said Sgt. Vidal. “For that you needed combat soldiers who were also mechanics.” Today the system runs flawlessly, taking on a wide array of missions. Its reliability has reached the point where Sgt. Vidal is the only mechanic in the unit.
(the IDF Spokesman)
In the past year, the program has been gaining steam, becoming a regular sight on the Gazan border while preparing for a new generation of vehicles that will also include tactical weapons and recon technology.
The Guardium is able to patrol independently, but is most effective when adding an additional layer to infantry patrols. “We often patrol alongside infantry forces. We operate parallel to the infantry, on a path much closer to the fence. We provide an extra set of eyes that are looking from a more dangerous position while keeping soldiers out of harm’s way,” said Lt. Hajbi. “We rely on infantry to deal with hotter events, but they rely on us just as much. It’s a symbiotic relationship.”
The wide array of observation capabilities makes the UGV a very useful tool. “We can recognize buried explosives, footprints, and people creeping towards the fence. We make excellent use of a wide range of observation equipment and cameras,” said Sgt. Vidal.
The vehicle itself has a wide range of capabilities, allowing it to operate on a variety of missions. The design is modular, allowing for the placement of different observation or mission packages based on the task at hand. In addition, although the vehicle is operated from a war room, it has the ability to act autonomously, both driving itself and responding to obstacles and events.
The Guardium UGV uses the TomCar chassis. It is equipped with an automated tactical positioning system and can operate autonomously on and off road, at speeds up to 80 km/h. The vehicle can carry a payload of up to 300 kg, including light armor shield to protect vital systems. A fleet of Guardium vehicles can be used as sentries, controlled from the command center, and can be use to mount ambushes or operating in response to events received from an early warning or perimeter defense system. Each vehicle can also be manually controlled by remote control.
Following a successful evaluation in 2005, the program was selected by the IDF to operate as part of the border security operations. By May 2008 the IDF received the first batch of Guardium UGVs scheduled to enter fully operational service along the countrie’s borders by the year’s end. In 2008 Israel’s Airport Authority conducted an evaluation of the system as part of possible integration of an autonomous UGV as part of its airport security system.
I saw the Guardium during the last conflict in Gaza and it is very impressive. Especially when 7.62 and .50 weapons are mounted on it.