Eurosatory 2024 – Pearson Engineering breaks ground with minefield breaching system for RCVs

Sam Cranny-Evans

Pearson Engineering has developed a new minefield breaching system designed specifically for robotic combat vehicles (RCVs) that was revealed to the public for the first time at the Eurosatory 2024 exhibition in Paris. It is referred to as the Robotic Combat Vehicle Pioneer Minefield Breaching system and builds upon the earlier development of the RCV-Pioneer Urban Obstacle Clearing System unveiled at DSEI 2023

“The development is part of a planned roll out of engineering capability optimised for a conflict environment that is increasingly characterised by robotics, automation and autonomy,” Richard Beatson, Business Development Director at Pearson Engineering told EDR Online during the Eurosatory event. This trend has been underway in varying degrees since the 1990s when uncrewed aerial vehicles first began to provide reconnaissance. However, Beatson added that, “We have prioritised the minefield breaching mission payload in order to respond to an increase in demand, driven by the proliferation of anti-tank mines in Ukraine and the threat posed to soldiers.”

The system is currently built to be adaptable to a range of host vehicles including the General Dynamics TRX, Textron M3 Ripsaw and Milrem Type-X. The system consists of a track-width mine plough at the front of the vehicle with a full-width mine plough at the rear. The track-width system is designed to protect the RCV itself. Positioning the full-width plough at the rear of the vehicle reduces the tractive effort required to use the plough compared with the usual placement of a mine plough at the front of a vehicle and means that a lighter vehicle with a lower power drive train can operate it. A front only mounted plough system influences the attitude of the host vehicle which due to uneven loading can reduce the traction of the host vehicle. The front and rear plough system is a more balanced solution allowing the maximum traction of the vehicle to be utilised without consuming any power from the vehicle.

The front plough is developed from Pearson’s Vector self-protection ploughs, which is in service on wheeled platforms such as the Piranha 5 procured by Spain. The plough sections are arranged around a free-standing mission payload frame with adjustable jacks that are used to elevate the frame and dock the RCV into the system. This allows the mission payload to be changed as required to meet mission needs. The demonstrator plough presented at Eurosatory is 4 m wide and 10.5 m long with a height of 2.5 m. It should be noted that these specifications are for the demonstrator and the system is designed to be configured according to the dimensions of the host platform.

click on image to enlarge

Militaries are working to understand the potential value of RCVs, especially larger platforms represented by systems like the Type-X from Milrem or Alpar from Otokar. Manned-unmanned teaming is one avenue as it allows crewed vehicles to increase their firepower by bringing additional uncrewed systems with them, or designate uncrewed systems for more dangerous operations.

For example, the Ukrainian counter-offensive in 2023 frequently found large and dense minefields covered by layered Russian defences armed with Kornet anti-tank guided missiles were the first obstacle. Initial efforts would involve clearing a lane through the minefield that would typically be wide enough for a single vehicle. When Russian units eventually revealed themselves, or a lead vehicle became immobilised, it would leave the rest of the vehicles in the column stranded. They could risk turning around, or leaving the proven path to continue the attack, but would have to navigate uncleared mines. Alternatively, they could stay in position and attempt to win the firefight from there, risking exposure to artillery in the process.

Uncrewed vehicles fitted with mine ploughs, or the Pearson mine roller system shown on the Type X in the imagery below could provide a solution to this type of challenge by breaching a minefield and exposing enemy positions for crewed systems to engage. “We recognise the growing place for uncrewed vehicles on the battlefield and their need to both move to places of their Commanders’ choosing, and to provide mobility and countermobility support to others,” Beatson said.

While the proper role of RCVs in combat may not be abundantly clear at present, it is clear that manufacturers and the defence industry as a whole will play an important part in demonstrating the art of the possible.

Photos by Samuel Cranny-Evans