International Military Trial Tests Robotic Combat Vehicles in Australia

A U.K. Viking Multirole Unmanned Ground Vehicle operates during the Trusted Operation of Robotic Vehicles in a Contested Environment (TORVICE) trial that was recently completed in Australia. (Image: Australian Government)

Defense scientists representing Australia, the U.K., and the U.S. have successfully demonstrated the integration of advanced autonomy and artificial intelligence (AI) to test the resilience of autonomous assets in a contested environment.

Conducted at the Cultana Training Area in South Australia in late 2023, the Trusted Operation of Robotic Vehicles in a Contested Environment (TORVICE) trial combined innovation and technology to test the use of AI in uncrewed robotic vehicles.

A network of robotic ground vehicles developed by several U.K. and U.S.-based manufacturers were configured to represent autonomous multi-domain launchers and uncrewed ground vehicles conducting long range precision fires and associated missions. The vehicles carried no weapons during the trial.

Australian scientists then subjected the vehicles to electronic warfare, electro optical and position, navigation, and timing attacks.

TORVICE is part of the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia's commitment to the AUKUS Advanced Capabilities Pillar, known as Pillar II, under the Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy Working Group. AUKUS is a trilateral security partnership for the Pacific region between Australia, the U.K. and the U.S., according to the Department of Defense (DoD).

The trial is part of an ongoing series pursuing a trilateral program of work on a range of leading-edge technologies and capabilities to promote security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

"The TORVICE project builds upon the work the AUKUS partners demonstrated in Salisbury in April. During this exercise, we performed rigorous red teaming of our autonomous/AI systems to assess and mitigate vulnerabilities and to improve their resilience in contested and complex environments," said Dr. Kimberly Sablon, the U.S. Department of Defense's Principal Director for Trusted Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy.

Guy Powell, Principal Adviser, Land Autonomy, U.K. Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, said networked autonomy would be critical to future warfighting.

“Robotic and autonomous systems have the potential to transform the battlefield providing a force multiplier while reducing risk to warfighters,” he said. “TORVICE allows us to understand robotic autonomous systems' operation in a contested environment and increase resilience of these systems. Working across three nations will accelerate development of robust capable systems.”

Shane Canney, Chief Land and Integrated Force, Defence Science and Technology Group, said interoperability with AUKUS partners on land, at sea, in the air and in cyber space would support the ADF to maintain its strategic military edge.

“Understanding how robotic vehicles react in contested environments accelerates our collective know-how and helps improve the system to overcome such attacks,” Dr. Canney said. “Transitioning trusted robotic capabilities into the hands of our warfighters safely and ethically is a priority.”