SIEGEN, Germany — The Spanish military took delivery of a THeMIS robotic vehicle, made by Estonia’s Milrem Robotics, to gauge how unmanned ground technology can improve operations of its ground forces, the company announced Aug. 9.

The evaluation comes as some European armies are in the market to equip their soldiers with robots for anything from cargo carrying to surveillance and attack missions. Manufacturers hope the technology will one day be as ubiquitous as drones are in the air domain, though navigating the intricacies of earthly terrain has proved to be a harder nut to crack.

Spain’s robotic evaluation program, dubbed Scorpion, began in early 2021, though sporadic tests with THeMIS began as early as 2019 under the country’s Fuerza 35 effort, a major modernization program for the Army.

Milrem’s flagship product has been a staple at defense exhibitions for years, and the company displayed the THeMIS at last November’s FEINDEF show in Madrid, Spain.

“The THeMIS has already prove[d] itself to 12 countries, seven of which are members of NATO, as a capable, robust and versatile system,” said Kuldar Väärsi, CEO of Milrem Robotics. “We are glad that Spain has joined as the 13th user of THEMIS and chosen Milrem Robotics as a partner to build their robotic and autonomous systems capabilities.”

The company’s robot saw front-line action alongside deployed Estonian forces during the now-defunct Barkhane counterterrorism mission, led by France, in Mali. According to the manufacturer, the vehicle there logged 1,200 kilometers (746 miles miles) in harsh desert conditions.

Milrem, backed by the Estonian government, booked a major win in 2020 when it received the European Commission’s nod to lead a pan-European Union effort to create a standardized architecture for a new-generation unmanned ground system. While the effort is meant to be hardware-agnostic, it uses the THeMIS as a reference platform.

Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.

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