Japanese Army to Test First Unmanned Ground Vehicles

The Japanese Army will test its first unmanned ground vehicle, Rheinmetall's all-electric Mission Master SP, under a new contract with the German defense manufacturer. (Image: Rheinmetall)

The Japanese Ministry of Defence has signed a multimillion-dollar contract with Rheinmetall that could pave the way for future deployment of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) by the Japanese Army.

Under the new contract, Rheinmetall will deliver three of its Mission Master SP UGVs to Japan early next year for testing. The German manufacturer will deliver the UGVs in collaboration with prime contract Marubeni Aerospace, a major Japanese business conglomerate that will be trained by Rheinmetall to offer local support to the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. The contract also includes a long-term support and training program, as well as spare parts.

Rheinmetall describes the Mission Master SP as an all-electric combat UGV designed to autonomously carry out missions such as forward and last mile resupply missions, silent watch operations, and carriages of light payloads, including section sensors and weapon systems. The vehicle can be towed or deployed by parachute to carry out missions in hard-to-reach terrain, and fitted with tracks to enhance mobility in deep snow and mud—an ideal feature for countries with extreme climates like Japan.

Mission Master SP was the first UGV to be developed by Rheinmetall Canada in 2017 and has since been deployed during multiple live military exercises by land forces, including the German, USA, Royal Dutch, and Polish armies. Various NATO partners, such as the UK and the USA have also acquired this UGV.

“As international tensions continue to rise, more and more countries are seeking autonomous solutions to maintain a competitive advantage and prepare for the modern battlefield. Our Mission Master vehicles equipped with our PATH A-kit have performed well in numerous international trials in recent years. These experiences have allowed us to refine our technology and become an internationally renowned centre of excellence for UGVs,” said Pietro Mazzei, President and CEO at Rheinmetall Canada.

Like other platforms in the Rheinmetall Mission Master family, the SP vehicle is driven by Rheinmetall PATH: an AI-powered navigation system that can be installed on any vehicle. This agnostic suite of advanced sensors and perception algorithms enables the Mission Master vehicles to navigate autonomously through challenging environments.