With an abundance of state-of-the-art military equipment featuring at Exercise Talisman Sabre 2019, the Australian Army is this year trialling an unmanned ground vehicle in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Queensland.

The unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) is known as the ‘Mission Adaptable Platform System Mule’, a six-wheeled device capable of hauling more than 500 kilograms of equipment.

Lieutenant Patrick Mueller, a 9th Force Support Battalion (9FSB) workshop platoon commander, said it helped reduce manual labour requirements.

Corporal Aaron Le Jeune from the 9th Force Support Battalion trials the UGV. Photo: Sergeant Jake Sims

“Coming up with how we were going to incorporate them into our daily routine was hard initially, but the more we used it, the more we found ways to integrate it,” Lieutenant Mueller said.

“We started using them for things like daily replenishment, so water, food and rubbish runs into a central point … one of the operators took to using them to haul cabling around the position to do electrical runs.

“Other ideas that were floated including using them to carry ammunition to forward defensive pits, as well as carrying defensive stores – wiring, sandbags – which is a difficult task with a small amount of people.

“We’ve discovered some teething issues, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.”

The Mule can be configured into several specialist roles through use of hydraulic crane arm attachments, a surveillance module and combat litters for the carriage of wounded soldiers.

The workshop platoon’s Corporal Aaron Le Jeune said it was an easy platform to learn and operate.

“It operates off a standard gaming controller and uses four buttons to operate it, so it’s a very simple piece of equipment to operate,” Corporal Le Jeune said.

“The workshops team have been using it to ferry parts and tools to and from jobs in the local brigade maintenance area, as well as stores drop-offs and collections.

“A lot of the tasks we’re doing is trialling the system, but in the long run I think something like this would help us out.

“The capability is there and it would make life in the field easier for both us and people in other jobs.”

Exercise Talisman Sabre is the Australian Defence Force’s largest exercise, involving up to 34,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen from Australia, the USA, UK, Canada, New Zealand and Japan.