- A Russian think tank is offering a $ 16,000 bounty for the THeMIS robotic vehicle.
- The vehicle was recently delivered to Ukraine, where it is reportedly used to evacuate wounded civilians.
- The think tank, CAST, told Insider it wants to supply such a system to the Russian military.
A Moscow-based think tank with ties to Russia's military establishment is offering a cash reward — one bigger than what most soldiers make in a year — for the capture "by any means" necessary of a cutting-edge robotic vehicle that is being used to assist in the evacuation of wounded civilians in Ukraine.
Dubbed ThEMIS, the remotely controlled, unmanned ground vehicle is manufactured by an Estonian defense contractor, Milrem Robotics. A spokesperson for the company told the defense publication Janes that at least one unit has already been delivered to Ukraine, where it is being used to carry medical aid and transport injured civilians.
According to the company, the system, which can carry up to 1,650 pounds, can also be "rapidly configured from having a transport function to being weaponized," enabling it to be used in combat operations. Promotional literature emphasizes its ability to transport battlefield casualties — as well as mortar rounds and other munitions.
Milrem Robotics did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it intends to deliver a combat version of the system to Ukraine. More than a half-dozen members of NATO, including France, Germany, and the United States, have acquired versions of the THeMIS platform.
Russia apparently does not want to be left out.
"The conflict in Ukraine has demonstrated that modern warfare is unthinkable without the widespread use of unmanned vehicles," Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, said in a statement to Insider. Unfortunately, he said, in Russia "we are lagging behind."
To catch up, the think tank is offering one million rubles, or more than $ 16,000, to anyone in the military or law enforcement who captures a THeMIS robotic vehicle mostly intact and delivers it to the defense ministry, a recent CAST blog post said. For comparison, a person who signs a three-year contract to serve in the Russian military earns an annual salary of just over $ 13,000, according to The Washington Post, and conscripts make less than $ 25 a month.
"If it is possible to obtain information about foreign developments, this should certainly be done, by any means," Pukhov said. "The platform being sold to Ukraine is a basic model, but even if we can study it, it will do us good."
Jeffrey Edmonds, a former CIA analyst who now works as a Russia expert at the Center for Naval Analyses, told Insider that CAST should not be seen as a direct arm of the Kremlin, although its researchers' views are generally consistent with the line being pushed by Moscow.
"That being said, the head of CAST has very deep ties with the military establishment," he noted.
In 2007, Pukhov was named a member of the Public Council under the Russian Defense Ministry. He told Insider that his ultimate goal is to supply better unmanned systems to the Russian Army. "And in combat conditions," he said, "the capture and study of systems and platforms used by the enemy is one of the main ways" to do so.
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