A Russian think tank is offering a $16,000 bounty for the THeMIS robotic vehicle.
It was recently delivered to Ukraine, where it’s reportedly used to transport wounded civilians.
The think tank, CAST, told Insider it wanted to produce such a system for the Russian military.
A Moscow think tank with ties to Russia’s military establishment is offering a cash reward — one bigger than what most soldiers in the country make in a year — for the capture “by any means” necessary of a cutting-edge robotic vehicle being used to assist in the evacuation of wounded civilians from areas in Ukraine.
Dubbed THeMIS, the remotely controlled 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 had been delivered to Ukraine, where it’s being used to carry medical aid and transport injured civilians.
The company said 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.
A spokesperson for Milrem Robotics said the company did not comment on future deliveries or whether those might include combat-ready vehicles.
“There are some plans, but we can speak about them when the systems are in Ukraine,” Gert Hankewitz, the firm’s director of marketing and export control, told Insider. He added: “We take the bounty as a compliment.”
More than half a dozen members of NATO, including France, Germany, and the US, 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, the director of Moscow’s Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, said in a statement to Insider. He said that in Russia, “we are lagging behind.”
To catch up, the think tank is offering 1 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, The Washington Post reported, 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, adding that its researchers’ views were 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 said.
In 2007, Pukhov was named a member of the Public Council under the Russian Defense Ministry. He told Insider his ultimate goal was 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.”
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