China has carried out several days of exercises involving armoured units working alongside robotic and autonomous systems (RAS), it has emerged.
The exercise, which took place on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau in August 2019 and has only recently come to the attention of Jane's , was reported by China Central Television (CCTV) as the first military exercise involving Chinese armour and RAS in altitudes of up to 4,200 m.
Various tactics were exercised by the People's Liberation Army Ground Force's (PLAGF's) 76th Synthetic Brigade (formerly 21st Group) while training to engage in realistic combat conditions in a snow-laden landscape, according to the CCTV report. Exercise phases explored included Type 99A main battle tanks (MBTs) launching attacks on identified targets, remote ground clearance operations, manned/unmanned teaming (MUM-T), various live fire drills, and the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in swarms.
After the initial artillery fire was completed, remotely operated mine-clearing robots moved in to open up routes through minefields, even as surrounding fire continued. The mine-clearing robots transmitted images and data back to a control centre installed within a Type 99A MBT, followed by any required detonation of mines, CCTV noted, adding that the Type 99A used all the information gained from the various platforms' sensors to exchange data with combat UGVs to obtain a complete common operating picture.
An offensive swarm of quadcopter mini-UAVs then descended on the fictitious opponent to conduct reconnaissance. Some of the swarm carried bombs and explosives to co-ordinate attacks with ground forces in order to strike enemy personnel and ground fortifications.