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Captured THeMIS robot may help Russian Armed Forces penetrate Ukrainian positions

Federico Borsari noted that in the event that there was encrypted data or stored information found in the vehicle's systems, this could pose an immediate threat to the Ukrainian operators by potentially revealing their location

MOSCOW, May 24. /TASS/. The seizure of the unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) THeMIS from the Estonian firm Milrem Robotics by the Russian military in the special military operation zone may entail certain risks for both the West and the Ukrainian army, Federico Borsari, a fellow at the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis think tank, has told the Defense News weekly.

Images of a ground robot captured by the Russian army, which looks very much like Estonia's THeMIS, appeared on Russian Telegram channels in mid-May. The images showed that the UGV had sustained significant damage, but this did not prevent it from being identified as THeMIS, which the US expert also acknowledged.

Borzari, speaking to Defense News, pointed out that the vehicle shown in the photos "very much resembles" the THeMIS.

"There is also a visible part of the printed Ukrainian flag on the upper right front corner, confirming this was one of the systems provided to Kiev," the expert said.

Regarding the implications of Moscow getting its hands on the vehicle, Borsari says the technology is not particularly sensitive. Still, there are some risks, he added.

"Accessing Western technology can certainly be useful as it offers Russia alternative ideas or concepts on the engineering and design, and most importantly access to the type of sensors and communications-encryption technologies the system uses," Borsari said.

Although most manufacturers have mechanisms in place to prevent technology theft, the retrieval of any sophisticated components could allow for Russia to attempt to develop "tailored countermeasures or simply improve its own systems," he added.

The analyst noted that in the event that there was encrypted data or stored information found in the vehicle's systems, this could pose an immediate threat to the Ukrainian operators by potentially revealing their location.

"A big, immediate risk could be Russia trying to exploit encryption info or other stored data, provided there is any, to breach Ukrainian secure communications or track Ukrainian operators and strike their location," Borsari said.

Ruslan Pukhov, the head of the Russian Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), told TASS earlier that his organization was ready to pay 2 million rubles for the THeMIS UGV captured during the special military operation after receiving all necessary confirmations. However, for this purpose, it is necessary to make sure that the trophy platform is not badly damaged and is suitable for examination.

In September 2022, Pukhov announced a reward of 1 million rubles for the capture of one of the THeMIS UGV at the disposal of the Ukrainian military. He stated that "this offer has been coordinated with the relevant structures."

The tracked robot has a mass of 1.6 tons and can carry up to 1.2 tons of payload. THeMIS's propulsion system is hybrid, diesel-electric. Its battery life is up to 1.5 hours and with hybrid drive - up to 15 hours. The maximum travel speed is 20 km/h, and the range of control via a radio channel is 1.5 km.

The developer's website says that the chassis can be equipped with various armaments: machine guns, automatic 30-mm cannon, launchers of anti-tank missiles such as Javelin (Javelin) or up to six launch containers with suicide drones Hero-120.

"Milrem Robotics began delivering THeMIS vehicles to Ukraine in 2022. As of February this year, according to the firm's statement, 15 such vehicles configured for cargo delivery or mine clearing had been handed over to the Ukrainian military.

On May 23, the company announced plans for building up its production capacity fivefold in order to step up production rates. Milrem intends to open a new workshop next door to its headquarters in Tallinn. According to the company's representatives, the new production facility will be able to produce up to 500 additional vehicles a year.