Most military technology news hails some innovation that will revolutionize modern warfare, or that promises a startling upgrade at the very least.
The IDF’s Guardium robot vehicle was no exception. Ten years of research and development and lots of high hopes went into its development, which promised dramatic new capabilities for ground troops. In the end, those hopes were not fulfilled.
Like most unmanned aerial vehicles, it was designed to do dangerous work in the field, thereby saving soldiers’ lives. The Guardium was to be used for opening traffic arteries, with human soldiers following safely behind; patrolling borders without exposing soldiers to booby traps, deadly ambushes, and antitank fire; gathering intelligence through special systems installed on it; guiding accurate fire against the enemy at the order from a distant command and control carriage.
Indeed, the invention passed its testing phase and performed reasonably well under real operational conditions along Israel’s borders. The problem was, it just didn’t sell.
“It appears that this plan was ahead of its time,” a source involved in the matter told Globes.
“No customer was found willing to pay enough for this product to cover and justify the considerable investments the venture incurred over the years. The product was not economically viable. The vehicle could do the job fairly well, but it did not attract orders or make money.”
The manufacturers, Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems, have closed down the project and Guardium is being warehoused for now.
But according to one expert, the disappointment with Guardium went deeper.
“The idea was good, but something there didn’t work out technologically, so wherever they brought the Guardium, it was not liked,” says former Ministry of Defense official Amos Goren, an entrepreneur in unmanned vehicles used in the defense of airports and sensitive strategic facilities.
“Everyone likes talking now about unmanned, automatic, or semi-automatic vehicles. You have to take into account that technologically, we’re not there yet. The technology that will make it possible to produce a vehicle that can do exactly what is expected from such a vehicle will be available only in 5-10 years. We’re going in the right direction, but there’s a long way ahead of us,” Goren said.