Aug. 23 (UPI) -- A consortium of European countries, led by Estonia, agreed to develop unmanned military ground vehicles on Friday.
The Estonian Center for Defense Investments joined representatives from Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia and Spain in Tallinn to sign an agreement for the development of Modular Unmanned Ground Systems, known as MUGS, with funding from the European Defense Fund, an agency of the European Union which coordinates investment in defense research and encourages interoperability between national forces.
The countries seek $34.1 million from the EDF, with participating countries adding additional funds.
The Estonian defense contractor Milrem Robotics, manufacturer of the THeMIS unmanned vehicle used by the Estonian military, has signed on as a developer.
"We reached an agreement on military operational requirements for unmanned ground vehicles," Kusti Salm, of the Estonian Center for Defense Investments, told The Baltic Times. "This is a result of one and half years and thousands of man-hours of negotiations. The ambition is no less than developing a F-16 of unmanned ground systems."
Manufacturing an unmanned combat vehicle was expressed in 2018 by PESCO, the EU's security and defense agency, whose mission includes structural integration of the defense agencies of the EU's 28 members.
PESCO has called for a multi-mission-capable platform to carry different payloads and sensors, cyber-secure autonomous navigation capability and electronic warfare-resilient command and control interface systems.
The current TheMIS units are being tested by Estonian soldiers comprising a United Nations military force in Mali.