Combating Terrorism: Manned Unmanned Teaming 


By Alenko Ribić & Dario Finderle

Alenko Ribić and Dario Finderle introduce DOK-ING’s MV-3 Hystrix system for counterterrorist operations.

One of the definitions of terrorism is spreading fear and panic to create a general impression of insecurity among citizens. Terrorism is difficult to predict, it can appear anywhere, it goes beyond the framework of state actors, and the targets are often critical infrastructure facilities and mass gathering sites such as shopping centers, airports, sports and cultural facilities, and public spaces. 

Beside spreading fear and insecurity, one of the main goals of terrorism is to create a general impression that national authorities cannot effectively provide a safe and secure environment for their citizens, thereby diminishing the levels of trust and support in them. 

Even though national and international security services continuously conduct counterterrorism (CT) measures to predict and prevent terror attacks and to increase the resilience and effectiveness of defensive measures, due to their unpredictable nature terrorist acts are not always preventable.

The global fight against terrorism has led to the constant adaption of existing CT measures as well as the development and application of new ones by security forces. Those measures not only rely on more effective and agile tactics, techniques, and procedures for combating terrorism, but also on the use of advanced technological solutions and equipment for CT teams responsible for crisis response and final threat neutralization. 

Those advanced technological solutions provide a competitive edge to CT teams and enable a safer, faster, and more effective execution of complex tactical operations. Some of those solutions include manned and unmanned vehicles as well as robotic systems designed to provide the highest levels of agility, speed, and lethality. Unlike traditional manned vehicles such as armored personnel carriers and trucks, unmanned robotic systems provide a plethora of operational capabilities within a single system and completely remove human presence from danger areas.

Introducing DOK-ING’s MV-3 Hystrix System

For these specific reasons, the Croatian company DOK-ING recognized the need to develop the MV-3 Hystrix unmanned, remotely controlled robotic system that addresses all critical aspects of counterterrorism tactics, techniques, and procedures. Police and military experts with a vast amount of operational experience employed at DOK-ING teamed up with an engineering team and international CT experts to tackle this challenge. 

Hystrix UGV capabilities were purposely designed based on the extensive analysis of terrorist acts, CT strategies employed by security forces, lessons learned, and equipment requirements identified in the past. The MV-3 features a level IV foldable ballistic front shield complemented by a set of sensors, cameras, and interchangeable front and rear attachments. In its configuration with the front shield unfolded, it accommodates up to eight SOF operators. Its rubber-tracked prime mover is powered by a fully electric engine.

MV-3 Hystrix, © DOK-ING

Command and Control Centers

Planning and conducting CT operations is complex and requires critical decision-making abilities based on credible information. The command and control (C2) centers are the hub and the collection points of tactical information obtained through various remotely controlled unmanned systems.

Full situational awareness is one of the critical considerations in any security operation, but it is particularly crucial in CT operations due to its sensitivity and potential negative effects if the operation is not carried out effectively. By utilizing systems like MV-3, operators gain valuable intelligence information and can build a clear operational picture through the system’s audio, video, CBRN sensors, and the sensors from teamed UAVs, while operating remotely from a safe C2 location. Thanks to a foldable front ballistic shield and tracked maneuvrability, this system can enter confined indoor areas such as shopping malls, airports, railway stations, and concert halls, which are traditionally not accessible for larger manned vehicles. 

Analyzing some of the “traditional” terrorist attacks conducted at public sites, initial approach, breach, and entry are the most dangerous phases of CT operations.  With a series of mounted tools including a ram, harpoon, and rotational gripper, the unmanned system can approach with speed, execute breaching operations, and remove obstacles remotely while under direct fire from potential adversaries. All this can be carried out without any danger to CT teams or other security forces while continuously providing valuable intelligence and situational awareness data including area layout, potential targets, hostage numbers and location, presence of IEDs, obstacles, and hazardous material presence to C2 centers.  Due to its electric power drive, initial approach and reconnaissance is silent and covert.  

During follow-up phases of operations, once the requirement for a CT team entry has been identified, systems like Hystrix can provide fast entry for tactical teams while ensuring unseen levels of ballistic protection, carrying capacity, maneuvrability, and lethality. Traditionally, security forces’ mobility is limited by their personal protective equipment and heavy portable ballistic shields. 

For this exact reason, a foldable front ballistic shield with firing ports provides teams with high levels of protection and enables continuous target engagement without compromising on speed of entry or force protection. In addition, a rear shield carrier mount provides a quick release system for dismounted operations and enables the CT team to efficiently transition to dismounted operations without exposure to hostile fire.

Casualty Transport, Hostage Extraction, and Much More

Due to its load carrying capacity and integrated equipment storage container for additional weapons, ammo, special equipment, medical kits and so on, teams can transport all necessary equipment and still minimize individual load weight. Lastly, the size of the top platform and mounted sensors enable the UGV to transport casualties, safely extract hostages, provide resupply with autonomy, conduct area intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations while the CT team is engaged, and many other activities based on the tactical situation or teams’ immediate needs.

There are numerous uses for a system like this that can improve standardized approaches to crisis response operations. Some of the examples mentioned above can be transformed into independent critical resupply operations in highly contested indoor areas where prolonged engagements occur. Hystrix provides a logistics platform that can easily reach operators and deliver equipment while additionally extracting injured and/or detained personnel. 

Integrated with other sensors and kinetic and non-kinetic assets, MV-3 provides ISR capabilities that can operate autonomously through light detection and ranging (lidar), and provide a constant informational feed to C2 centers while other human assets can be diverted to respond to more critical and newly emerging situations. Easily connectable to UAVs and other ISR assets, and with the possibility of information gathering integration, this system becomes a “watchdog” for operational forces. 

Apart from conventional CT operations, in case of man-made or natural disasters in urban areas, the versatility of this system makes it suitable for search and rescue operations in support of traditional S&R capabilities focusing on accessing dangerous and challenging indoor areas where there is a high risk for human teams.

MV-3 Hystrix, © DOK-ING

A “Swiss Army Knife” Solution

Technology is crucial in today’s security environment. Terrorists and other non-state adversaries constantly employ new tactics and ways to achieve maximum effect, disrupt our sense of security, and diminish faith in our societies’ values. To counter this, security forces must adapt and continuously find new and more effective ways to conduct counterterrorism operations.

Unfortunately, prevention does not always work. Sometimes, our adversaries succeed and force our security forces into direct actions that in most cases involve innocent bystanders. The ability to deploy and effectively use technological solutions that not only provide a safer and more lethal response but also have numerous applications in the field, is a reality. 

Meanwhile, limitations presented to counterterrorism forces are constant and obvious. Financial restrictions, limited manning, numerous single use systems that are unable to communicate and operate jointly, traditionally heavy and cumbersome equipment, and many other limitations demand new and innovative solutions. 

Those solutions are available in various versions but only a few provide a “Swiss Army knife” solution. DOK-ING’s MV-3 Hystrix system is a comprehensive game-changing multitool for the front-line operators that need it most.

Alenko Ribić was a member of the elite forces of the Special Police of the Croatian MOI. In addition to his wartime experience, he held the highest positions in the Special Police that included planning, implementation, and command in operational actions. His specialty is solving hostage crises and counterterrorist activities. He retired after 33 years of continuous work in the Special Police, reaching the position of Deputy Commander for operational tasks in the Special Police HQ of the Croatian MOI. Today, he is employed as a counterterrorism consultant at DOK-ING, responsible for the defense and security segment.

Dario Finderle was a member of the elite counterterrorist unit Lučko (ATJ) within the Special Police HQ of the Croatian MOI. In addition to participating in the Homeland War, he held the positions of instructor for intervention techniques and team leader in Special Police operations. His specialty is the use of technology in solving hostage crises and counterterrorist activities. He retired after 29 years of continuous work in the Special Police, reaching the position of Senior Instructor for intervention techniques in Lučko. Today, he is employed as a counterterrorism consultant at DOK-ING, responsible for the defence and security segment.

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