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Fired from under.

There was a time in the mid-1980s, when the main battle tank was still 'King of the Battlefield', when the 'unmanned' turret (remote controlled weapons station is a better description) for these vehicles was seen as a way forward, but later lost its way. In the last ten years the concept has seen something of a renaissance, albeit with a slightly different slant as the focus is now on the lighter armoured fighting vehicles.

While still seen as a necessity, the place of the main battle tank as an army's main weapon has reduced in importance. Consequently, the perceived need for externally mounted larger-calibre 'unmanned' turrets for main battle tanks has taken a lower priority.

The main benefits of an 'unmanned' turret or externally mounted weapons station can be summarised thus: a reduction in the vehicle profile, making it harder to acquire and hit, a reduced combat weight so savings can be reapplied as additional armour, a reduced crew size by replacing the loader with an auto-loader mechanism, relocating the crew and ammunition within the hull to increase the protection factor, improved logistics and an easier upgrade path for the future.

A major catalyst in the development of this turret genre has been the advance in electro-optical technology. This allows day/night vision of the outside world, via image intensification, low-light level television or thermal cameras, to be delivered to the gunner in the comparatively more secure environment of the lower hull.

Light Turrets

This category has produced a list of differing descriptive titles for products (or an acronym) that enhance promotional copy. Thus, one may see such turrets varyingly described as Remote (or Remotely Controlled) Weapons Stations (RWS/ RCWS) or Overhead Weapons Stations (OWS). Turrets in this category are the most numerous.

Typical of the breed is the range of RWS/RCWS/OWS from Rafael (covering the medium and light categories). Designed for use with 7.62 mm light machine guns, the company's OWS 7.62 is modular and can either be installed as a retrofit kit on older armoured fighting vehicles or as a new-build item. It is in service with the Israel Defence Force on a number of platforms including the modified M113 series, the Puma (converted from a Centurion tank chassis) and the Achzarit infantry armoured vehicle (a T-54/T-55 chassis modified by Nimda). It also equips Turkish Army Otokar Akrep reconnaissance vehicles and has been trialled on a Chilean-built Piranha.

The main features of the OWS 7.62 include a day/night sight assembly, weapon cocking from inside the vehicle, an internal (within the vehicle) ammunition feed (with 250 ready-use rounds) and electrical firing. The optics comprise a periscope sight with a x1 magnification day window and collimated aiming circle, a x8 magnification day channel with ballistic reticule, a x1 magnification night window with collimated aiming circle and a x7.5 magnification passive image-intensified night elbow. With a rotating seat, +/-170[degrees] traverse is possible with a 360[degrees] option available--elevation is from -15[degrees] to +45[degrees].

Rafael's OWS 12.7D/DE/DI series is designed for use with 12.7 mm (0.5-in or 50 calibre) heavy machine-guns, specifically the M2 HB model. The features and specification mirror the OWS 7.62, although only 100 ready-use rounds are carried. These are in service in static border defences with the Israel Defence Force.

The Katlanit RCWS (with a 7.62 mm machine-gun) was developed by Rafael as a private venture and has already been adopted by the Canadian Army under the name Protected Weapon Station (PWS). It is, to all intents and purposes, the OWS 12.7D system, except it uses an uncooled micro-bolometer thermal camera (or low light level television) in place of the image-intensified night elbow.

The production of the Katlanit by Oerlikon Aerospace began in mid-2000 and will be installed on the Recovery/Fitter variants of the stretched M113 (the Mobile Tactical Vehicle Light--MTVL), plus some M113A3 series. In addition, it will arm pioneer versions of the new Light Armoured Vehicle III being built by General Dynamics Land Systems--Canada and about 60 8 x 8 Bisons and 40 Armoured Vehicle General Purpose (6 x 6) that are being upgraded and re-roled. It is also in service with the Israel Defence Force on some Dingo and M113 vehicles. AEI in Britain is manufacturing 333 RCWS under the name Enforcer for the new British Army Alvis Vickers (now BAE Systems Land Systems) MLV.

An improved RCWS, launched in 2004, is able to mount a variety of 7.62 mm, 12.7 mm, 25 mm and 40 mm weapons including the XM312, XM307 and GAU17. It will be equipped with a stabilisation system, day/night sight, laser rangefinder, fire control system, auto-tracker, round counter, last round indicator and slave function.

From Norway, Kongsberg's RWS was originally developed by Vinghogs in cooperation with Kongsberg Protech. Under the designation Advanced Multi-Role Weapon Station (AMRWS), the first contract for the Norwegian Army was signed in 1999. Kongsberg subsequently gained full product rights for the RWS and evolved it into four separate weapon stations: RWS-N, RWS-US (XM-151), RWS-J and RWS-Naval.

The RWS-N variant is a direct descendant of the AMRWS. Both versions are now referred to as RWS-N, armed with a 12.7 mm M2 HB heavy machine-gun but can take the 7.62 mm machine-gun or 40 mm Mk 19 AGL (Automatic Grenade Launcher) as alternative weapons. Norwegian Army engineers use it on an M113 variant (NM221--Norwegian Model 221) and it has seen service in Kosovo and Afghanistan. The Royal Norwegian Air Force has eight BAE Systems Tactica 2000 EOD vehicles equipped with the RWS-N.

All RWS variants have 360[degrees] traverse and elevate between -20[degrees] to +60[degrees], being electrically driven with manual back-up, controlled by a joystick and a liquid crystal display.The day and thermal sight unit can be moved independently of the weapon. The RWS-N is fitted with a Vinghog Vingeye zoomable CCD camera, uncooled infrared sensor and Vinghog Vingrange laser rangefinder.

The US Army version of the system, under the commercial name XM-151 Protector is used on the Interim Armored Vehicle, which is the primary weapon platform in the Interim Brigade Combat Teams (IBCT), equipping the Stryker 8 x 8 family. The Stryker has seen extensive service in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 where it was deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It also equips the Australian Army's Aslav.

The Protector is designed for a wide variety of wheeled and tracked light armoured vehicles. It mounts a M240 7.62 mm or 12.7 mm M2 HB machine gun or a 40 mm Mk 19 AGLs.The weapon can also be cocked and most malfunctions can be rectified from under armour. Ammunition feeds from under armour is an optional feature adopted for the Norwegian Army AMRWS and RWS-M.

A Protector Block 1 improvement is now underway, introducing a laser rangefinder, stabilisation (initially this was not a requirement), an increased-range BAE Systems TCM 1500 uncooled thermal camera and other enhancements. Under a Block 2 contract received by Kongsberg in early 2005 all future Protectors will be stabilised and the 800 already in service gradually upgraded. One variation, the RWS-J, sees the RWS-US fitted with a Javelin ATGW as well as the gun. Under development by Kongsberg in collaboration with the US Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center it first fired a Javelin missile in 2003.

Developments and experience with the Protector is being fed back into the RWS-N family. To develop the system still further, Kongsberg is currently incorporating a full stabilisation system for the RWS and a 'lock-on-target' system. A future enhancement is the provision for lead angle correction.

Meanwhile, the homegrown XM101 Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (Crows) has emerged from Recon/Optical (for vehicles including the M1114 and M1116 up-armoured Hummers, M1117 Guardian and AAV7A1--but not the Stryker on which it has only been tested contrary to an earlier statement). The Crows is a remotely-aimed stabilised system that can accommodate weapons such as the M2 HB 12.7 mm heavy machine gun, M249 5.56 mm Saw, M240B medium machine-gun and the Mk 19 Mod 3 40 mm AGL. The system has an electronic fire control system and incorporates day/night sights, a laser rangefinder and surveillance devices. The day camera has a x27 optical zoom, while the night sensor is the AN/Pas-13 Heavy Thermal Weapon Sight.

To round off this section, from the Russian Federation comes the unarmoured KBP 9P163-2 Kvartet turret, armed with four laser-guided Kornet-E anti-tank missiles. The first service application of the Kvartet turret is on an unarmoured Hummer in service with the United Arab Emirates, and has been mounted on many light armoured and soft-skin vehicles including the Panhard VBL, on which it has been demonstrated most recently at Idex 2005 in March. The 600 kg turret has a combined sighting and guidance unit (with optical sight) housed in the centre and two TNPO-170A periscopes that are located on either side of the turret. KBP offers the option of a thermal imager mounted in the same housing as the sighting and guidance unit.

Medium turrets

In the middle ground between the light and medium categories, comes the Swarm (mentioned above) and the LRT-20 (LIW Remote Turret 20 mm)--a private venture from the LIW Division of South Africa's Denel group--which can also take a 7.62 mm or 12.7 mm weapon in place of the 20 mm cannon. An engineering development prototype has been mounted on a Scarab 4 x 4 fast attack/ strike vehicle for full firing trials. There are no known production applications. The 230 kg turret features an all-electric drive system for turret traverse and weapon elevation and is armed with the dual-feed LIW Vektor 20 mm GI2 cannon. Aimed and fired from under armour, it uses a day/low light camera with the aid of a flip down display and joystick. An integrated ballistic computer-based fire control system with a laser range-finder element is also fitted.

Moving up a calibre, the 25 mm Overhead Weapon Station (OWS25) from Rafael of Israel is configured for a 25 mm cannon. First ordered by Singapore, it was armed with an ATK Gun Systems Company (formerly Boeing) M242 25 mm Chain Gun and 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun for an M113A2 APC fleet upgrade. The 1100 kg OWS25 includes a day/night sight assembly, comprising a periscope sight with a x1 day window with collimated aiming circle, an x8 day channel with ballistic reticule, a x1 night window with collimated aiming circle and a x7.5 passive image intensified night elbow.

A variant, known as the OWS25R, armed with an Oerlikon Contraves 25 mm KBA cannon, coaxial 7.62 mm PKT machine gun and twin Malyutka M2T ATGW launcher, equips Romania's MLI-84M upgrade. Slovenia's Ravne na Koroskem is marketing an upgraded version of its licence-built Austrian Pandur 6 x 6, known as the Valuk, fitted with an OWS25 turret. Rafael is also developing a version of the OWS25 with the Spike in place of the Malyutka M2T.

Drawing on experience, Rafael's RCWS30 (Remote Controlled Weapon Station for 30 mm cannon) combines the safety associated with remote operation and the firepower of a 30 mm weapon. Weighing 1480 kg, it incorporates a unique folding mechanism that helps render it C-130/A400M compatible without compromising elevation/depression.

The 30 mm cannon (ATK Mk 44 or similar) is mounted centrally above the vehicle's roof level, with a 7.62 coaxial machine gun just above and to the left. A twin Spike-LR launcher pod is optional. The fire control system includes a high-performance day/night sight (IAI/Tamam or similar or low-light camera), a laser rangefinder, a GPS-based true north finder, optical tracker and a powerful computer.

Germany's Marder 1 replacement, the Neuer Schutzenpanzer Puma (not to be confused with other vehicles of the same name), will be equipped with a turret being developed by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and armed with the 30 mm Mauser Mk 30-2 cannon, although the 50 Rh-503 weapon (still under development) was initially considered. The 30 mm option is fully developed and in production, although no further details of the turret or its vision system have been released.

The BTR-80A sub-variant of Russia's BTR-80 is equipped with a modular weapon system. It carries a 30 mm 2A72 (with the option of a 14.5 mm KPVT gun) and a coaxial 7.62 mm PKT machine-gun. It is equipped with a 1P3-9 day sight and a TPN-3 (or TPN-3-42) night sight, which are mounted in the roof of the turret. The gunner's station is below the turret. Developed and produced by Arzamas, the BTR-80A is used by the Russian Main Directorate for Presidential Security and has been exported to Hungary, Indonesia, North Korea and the Sudan.

From Slovakia comes the 2A42-Cobra low-profile turret designed for upgrading existing vehicles such as the BMP-1, BTR-70, BTR-80 and OT-64. Although ZTS is the project leader and is responsible for assembly, Konstrukta-Defence is developing the turret and the electronics. The one-man turret, weighing 1050 kg, is armed with an externally mounted 30 mm 2A42 automatic cannon and coaxial 7.62 mm PKT machine gun. The gunner is provided with a ZTS-modified Meopta BPK-2-42 day/night sight and a control panel. Two versions of the turret exist: the Cobra-S, designed for the BMP-1, and the Cobra-K, designed for the BTR-80. A slightly modified version of the Cobra-K is under development for Pandur and Piranha vehicles. It is in production for Belarus (for BMP-1 and BTR-80) and offered for export.

The Ukraine's State Scientific and Technical Center of Artillery and Rifle Arms has developed the Shkval (Squall). It is armed with a 30 mm KBA-2 cannon, a coaxial 7.62 mm PKT machine gun, a 30 mm AGS-17 AGL and a pair of ready-to-fire 9K113 Konkurs missiles. It uses a day/night camera and a PZU-8M day channel AA periscope, plus five TNPO-170 day periscope units and a laser rangefinder.

Two versions have been developed for the upgrade market: the Shkval B for the BMP-1 and the Shkval L for BTR70/BTR-80 APCs, BRDM-2 recce vehicles and BMD-1/BMD-2 air-portable ICVs. In 2001, the Shkval unified battle module was shown in the United Arab Emirates installed on a BTR-94. This variant subsequently went into service with that nation's Marines as the Guardian APC and is now known in the Ukraine as the BTR-3U.

From the Emirates, the Adcom Burkan family of modular turrets is used on fighting vehicles and naval vessels. It comprises the Burkan-N1, an unmanned turret with four anti-armour missiles intended for the Marines, the Burkan-LE a oneman turret intended for use by land forces and the naval Burkan-S1. It is understood that Jordan has expressed an interest in the Burkan-LF as a replacement turret for its Scorpion CVR(T)s.

The UAE Armed Forces' turret is equipped with the 2A42 30 mm cannon with a coaxial PKT 7.62 machine-gun and (for the Marines) four missiles (probably Kornet-E) mounted on the sides. Alternative weapons include the Mauser Mk 30 cannon, the FN Mag 7.62 mm machine-gun and the Mk 19 40 mm AGL. The optronic suite comprises a 360[degrees] panoramic sight for surveillance, a Sagem Metis thermal sight with two cameras (one each for narrow and wide field of views) providing a near-night capability and an unspecified laser rangefinder.

The Anglo-French CTA International consortium (a joint venture between Giat and BAE Systems) has developed an unmanned remote turret for its 40 mm case-telescoped gun, called the Remote Weapon Station Concept (RWSC). Originally aimed mainly at the Tracer/FSCS programmes, it has been offered as a candidate for the Fres. The turret is currently referred to as the Toutatis. Key requirements include remote operation, weight not exceeding 1500 kg and 50 rounds online. Although currently planned for a two-man crew, the turret has also been designed for single operator use. The gunner is provided with a stabilised sight (in both elevation and traverse) independent of the weapons. There is no current information on any optronic system. The French DGA has ordered a single demonstrator to test the concept of a remotely operated turret.

Heavy turrets

One could argue that the Low-Profile Turret, armed with a 105 mm gun (LPT-105) and autoloader, validated during the mid-1980s as part of the US Army requirement for an M8 Armored Gun System (AGS), was the first practical 'unmanned' turret or externally mounted weapons station. Developed by Teledyne Vehicle Systems (now part of GDLS), it certainly demonstrated the solution for main gun performance integrated into a lightweight transportable vehicle system.

In January 1998, an improved LPT- 105 system was installed on a Steyr-Daimler-Puch/Santa Barbara Ascod. Late in 2000, the Lav-III/Stryker with a modified version of the LPT-105 was selected by the US Army to meet its Mobile Gun System requirement. In July 2002, GDLS delivered eight pre-production Stryker MGSs, which were immediately deployed on Exercise 'Millennium Challenge 2002'. The US Army has a requirement for 204 units, while recent reports suggest that Canada will procure the Stryker MGS as a replacement for its Leopard 1s.

The LPT-105 incorporates an external overhead 105 mm M68A1 gun and autoloader into a turret with a 1.85-metre turret ring with a full 360[degrees] of traverse. A 7.62 mm M240 machine-gun is coaxially mounted with the thermally shrouded M68A1 gun. In addition, Tow and Hellfire options may also be added to the gun pod to turn the LPT into a long-range tank destroyer. The commander and gunner sit side-byside, low in the turret basket, within the hull, with full dual controls. The gunner utilises a thermal sight with an image provided to the commander through a video link. Depending on what vehicle it is mounted the LPT-105 turret reduces overall weight by between 2200 and 5000 kg.

A Jordanian Army requirement to improve the protection and survivability of its ex-British Army Challenger 1s (renamed Al Hussein) resulted in the AB9C5 Falcon 2/3 turret programme. This project is managed by the Kaddb in partnership with the Mechanology Design Bureau and IST Dynamics of South Africa, responsible for the turret's fire control, electro-optics and system integration. Other partners include Ruag (main armament and blow-out panels), plus FLH Claverham (autoloader) and CLS Systems (power management).

The Falcon 2 (see title photograph) prototype has an externally mounted Ruag L50 120 smoothbore gun (as used in the Kaddb AB9B1/M60A3 upgrade) fed by a ten-round bustle autoloader, with a firing rate of eight-rounds per minute. The total weight of the turret is anticipated to be 17.5 tonnes. The production turret will be known as the Falcon 3, which will be wider than Falcon 2 and have a more bulbous rear to house a 17 to 18-round FLH Caverham autoloader. The turret will have composite armour and an active defence system. The crew will be within the turret basket but below the hull line. Exactly how far this programme will go depends on funding, although the plans are to retrofit the Falcon 3 to both the Al Hussein and AB9B1/M60A3s.

An interesting development between Giat and DMD of the Slovak Republic saw a feasibility study into a low-profile turret armed with Giat's 120 mm smoothbore gun and autoloader (both borrowed from the Leclerc) to provide a cost-effective modernisation package. The object of the joint project was to use much Leclerc turret technology, the final product being developed jointly by both companies in conjunction with customer nation participation. The proposed 15-tonne T-21 turret can fit T-72s as well as older western tanks such as the M60 and Leopard 1. There is a compromise in armour protection level because, to limit turret weight, protection on the frontal arc has been reduced. The fire control system is a derivative of that used on the Leclerc, as are many other components, while the electronics system is of the open architecture type, allowing interfacing with countermeasures and battlefield management systems would be chosen by the customer, of whom there has been no sign to date.

Other RWS/RCWS/OWS Available

* The 12.7 mm Arrows (Advanced Reconnaissance and Remotely Operated Weapon System) from FN Herstal of Belgium, working with Oerlikon Contraves, under evaluation from an undisclosed European country

* The PML 127 OWS from Patria of Finland (for use on the XA-203 and AMV 8 x 8 APCs), mounting a 12.7 mm NSV heavy machine gun, the latest version of which having all-electric traverse and elevation and a thermal camera

* The Type 2350 gun mount from Krauss-Maffei Wegmann of Germany (in service with Dutch and German Buffel armoured recovery vehicles and on order for Spanish Buffels), mounting a 7.62 mm machine gun, the FN Herstal Mag, HK21 and an MG3

* The Hitrole 12.7 mm remote overhead light electrical turret from Oto Melara of Italy (trialled on a Puma 6 x 6 and the Centauro), mounting a 12.7 mm M2 heavy machine-gun

* The TC-3 (A-1) 12.7 mm turret from General Dynamics Santa Barbara Sistemas of Spain (installed on Spanish and Egyptian BMR-600 6 x 6 and Spanish Army M113), mounting a 12.7 mm M2 HB heavy machine-gun

* The Swarm (Stabilised Weapon And Reconnaissance Mount) Lite from Thales. This is a lighter, lower-cost variant using the in-service 7.62 mm GPMG pintle mount, whereas the Swarm (ordered by Jordan) itself mounts a 20 mm cannon and a 7.62 mm machine-gun. Selected by Britain for its Trojan armoured engineer vehicle, it has also been trialled on the RG32M vehicle and is a candidate for the weapon system on the British Army Terrier combat engineer vehicle and for some variants of the Fres.

* The CA-530 Lightning Remotely-Operated Weapon Station (Rows) from Recon/Optical, with Fire Control Systems of Australia providing the sensors and fire control system. It is part of the company's Stabilised Remotely-operated Weapon Systems (SRWS) family, which also includes the XM-101 Crows. Although fitted with a 12.7 mm M3P heavy machine gun on a soft mount, the system can also mount similar-sized weapons. Three Lightnings have been supplied to Singapore Technologies (ST) Kinetics (who subsequently obtained a license to market the system) and installed on the Terrex AV81 and the Bionix. The United Arab Emirates has procured six Lightnings and 106 in a revised configuration.

* The Model 238 Compact Lightweight Armored Weapon Station (Claws) from Kollmorgen has been installed on US Army Hummers, but also sold to three undisclosed customers. It is a remote-controlled two-axis platform that supports three interchangeable weapon systems: a 7.62 mm M60 light machine gun, a 12.7 mm M2 heavy machine gun or a 40 mm Mk 19 AGL.
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Title Annotation:Armour: turrets
Author:Maxwell, David
Publication:Armada International
Date:Aug 1, 2005
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