Remote-control Land Rovers on the front line

snatch panama

Writing and researching about the defence industry has been a new concept for me, but there are certainly many things that catch my eye as a lifelong petrol head.

The Land Rover Defender has to be one of the most awesome and capable vehicles ever built. Totally classless and modifiable, the vehicle has been used for everything from farm hand to royal carriage, 4×4 family wagon to mountain rescuer.

The Snatch-Vixen 4×4 is perhaps the most obvious relation to a UK road vehicle that you might see on the front line – but its role is changing. Their use during the early days of Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns saw the Snatch heavily criticised for its lack of adequate ballistic and IED protection for occupants.

Since then semi-autonomous versions have emerged in the form such vehicles as the MIRA MACE Guardsman and Sherpa, allowing personnel to one day take a step back from such dangers and conduct missions remotely.

However, the news this week is all about the MIRA Autonomous Control Equipment (MACE) route clearance system.

It is a bit of a mouthful for what is an exciting piece of kit – just look at the pictures complete with huge hydraulic attachments – although I can’t help wondering if it’s the final nail in the Defender’s coffin, just being used as expendable mine fodder.

Nevertheless it will be a welcome and totally justified move if it therefore saves lives by preventing the need for directly manned counter-IED operations.

The Snatch-based MIRA MACE is operable in both semi-autonomous and autonomous modes from a distance of up to 20km from its control station – a more heavily protected vehicle.

The well-loved civilian Defender will cease production from 2015, with a chunky replacement dubbed DC 100 on the cards. Whether it will continue to sustain such a huge variety of customers both civil and military, and whether it can possibly be capable of spawning such a wide range of useful (and frankly rather cool) applications, remains to be seen.

Simon Truscott

To read more about the MIRA MACE system, please click here.

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