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Light remotely controlled weapon stations: current operations downrange have considerably increased the importance of remotely controlled weapon stations (RCWS), most light vehicles being now equipped with such systems that allow the machine gun operator to stay within the protected cell, no only against enemy fire, but also in case of accidents causing the vehicle to roll over.

The two most recent contracts won in the United States, one for spares related to the Crows II frame contract and one for production, system support and technical engineering support of the Ml53 Crows as part of the Crows III contract, further reinforce the dominance of the Kongsberg Protector and its derivatives such as the Ml53 (the benchmark in the RCWS field). Compared to the M151A2 Protector the Crows weighs 172 kg including armour and excluding weapon and ammunition. Qualified weapons include the Browning M2 in 12.7 mm calibre, the Mkl9 40 mm automatic grenade launcher, the M240 7.62 mm and the M249 5.56 mm machine guns. Almost every American tactical vehicle is equipped with such RCWS. The M151A2 weighs 135 kg as it is not armoured and can also be used with non-American weapons such as the H&K 40 mm GMG, the MG3 7.62 mm machine gun and others. Over 17,000 systems are currently in service in 17 different countries. Selected in June for the Canadian TAPV (Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle) programme it was installed on Textron Land Systems' Commandos. Norway and Sweden recently ordered the Protector with a fourth-generation fire control system and a new sensor suite developed inhouse. Two motors were installed in order to decouple the sights from the weapon, to adopt a non threatening posture in missions other than war. A suite of less-than-lethal effectors was integrated to give birth to the Protector EoF, for Escalation of Force. Kongsberg also integrated in the Protector Kollmorgen's ONE 360 system that allows one to view a full 360[degrees] picture. The Protector Light II has 80 per cent commonality with its bigger brother but weighs only 74 kg without weapon and ammo. Optimised for small-calibre weapons it can be equipped with anti-sniper detection systems, and other machine guns are being integrated, as well as antitank missiles. The Protector Light is in service with US Special Forces. The Protector Super Lite aims at lighter platforms, weighs 37 kg without weapon and ammo and is equipped with a game-boy type interface. The Super Lite was integrated on some prototype remote-control robots.

Rafael of Israel offers three different models of its Samson family, the Samson Junior, the Mini-Samson and the Samson Dual. They share the same in-hull assembly that provides the gunner with video and commands. The Samson Junior is the lighter of the three with an over-deck weight of 60 to 75 kg, without weapon and ammunition. As for weapons, 5.56 mm or 7.62 mm machine guns and their respective 600 or 400 rounds, can be installed as well as sharpshooter or non-lethal weapons. Rafael obtained an $1I million contract from the Israeli Defence Forces in December 2011 for an undisclosed number of Samson Juniors as well as a $10 million contract from an undisclosed European country.

The Dual is one of the latest members of the Samson family and a stop-gap between light and medium systems, as it can also host ATK's LW 25 or 30 mm cannon. Its peculiarity is that it can use a primary weapon ranging from a 7.62 mm machine gun to a 30 mm ARK LW cannon. The secondary weapon can be 5.56 mm, 7.62 mm or 12.7 mm machine guns. The over-deck weight of the system without weapons and ammo is 260 kg. In between those two options comes the Mini-Samson, with a 140-160 kg over-deck weight that can host 5.56 mm, 7.62 mm and 12.7 mm machine guns, and their respective 800, 600 and 400 rounds, as well as 40 mm AGLs with up to 96 grenades. At Eurosatory 2012 Rafael unveiled two evolutions of the Mini-Samson. One was equipped with a KVPT 14.5 mm machine gun of Russian origin, developed under a specific requirement and delivered to and deployed by an undisclosed customer. The 56 kg weapon had to be equipped with damper to deal with its strong recoil. The other development based on the Mini-Samson was a less-than-lethal version of the mount offered with five different types of effectors. The system is fully modular, and if needed can be reverted back to the lethal option. Overall the less-than-lethal Mini-Samson has an over-deck weight of less than 200 kg. The system is ready for production and is awaiting a launch customer. In its standard version, the Mini-Samson is in service with the Israel Defence Forces' Namer and Achzarits. Spain acquired 90 such stations for its RG-31 Mk5Es deployed to Afghanistan. Czech Pandur 8x8s that do not feature the Rafael Samson-30 are equipped with the company's Mini-Samson. Manufactured by Rheinmetall Canada under the name Protected Weapon Station, the Mini-Samson has been adopted by the Canadian Army. In Britain Selex Galileo produced it as the Enforcer, and it is installed on Panther 4x4 combat and liaison vehicles, some FV432 Mk3 Bulldogs and some Challenger II MBTs (all deployed to Afghanistan) and the latest vehicle to get the turret was the Ridgeback. Overall thousands of Mini-Samson have been sold to more than ten customers worldwide.

Elbit's portfolio has three different turrets, one for 7.62 mm machine guns, the other for 12.7 mm and a dual station. Introduced in 2010, the latter can cradle a primary weapon such a 12.7 mm machine gun or a 40 mm grenade launcher, and a secondary weapon of smaller calibre. However a most recent success was obtained by its Brazilian subsidiary Ares, that obtained a $25 million order for its stabilised Remax, capable of handling 12.7 mm or 7.62 mm machine guns as well as 40 mm AGLs. At 200 kg maximum weight it has a day/night target acquisition suite capable of detecting targets up to 5,000 metres and a vertical firing arc of -10[degrees]/-60[degrees]. The Remax will be used on board some of the variants of the Iveco Guarani 6x6 armoured vehicle.

The Saab Security and Defence Trackfire remote weapon and sensor system can be home to anything from a light machine gun up to a 25 mm LW cannon, its modularity also allowing the installation of a main weapon in the central cradle and a secondary weapon, up to 7.62 mm calibre, laterally. A typical configuration calls on a main 40 mm AGL or 12.7 MG weapon, flanked by a 7.62 machine gun. Weapons can be installed in a plug & play mode by changing soft mounts. The sensor module is self-contained and is installed under the weapon cradle; it hosts a CCD TV, an IR camera and a laser rangefinder, and can be equipped with a wash/wiper or jet nozzle to clean the front window of mud and dust. The Trackfire features a stabilised independent line of sight which allows to decouple the weapon from the sensors.

Following the development of the Wasp, the Panhard-Sagem team unveiled a bigger system at Eurosatory 2012, the Hornet, but in the form of a mock-up. The Wasp is a very light system--less than 60 kg with a 7.62 mm machine gun and 200 rounds--of which 100 have been acquired by the French Army as a UOR in early 2011 for installation on VBLs and PVPs used in Afghanistan. It accepts the AN F1 machine gun in service in the Armee de Terre and the FN Herstal MAG 58 that is replacing the former. The mount can also host 5.56 mm machine guns and for trial purposes was fitted with a Milan missile. The Hornet is optimised for 12.7 mm machine guns or 40 mm AGLs, a six-rounds Galix launcher being offered as option as well as a ballistic protection and a high capacity magazine. In combat order it weighs 150 kg, its elevation arc being -20[degrees]/+60[degrees]. Sagem optronics include a 12[degrees] field-of-view colour daylight camera and a 9[degrees] uncooled thermal camera.

BAE Systems' South African arm developed the Self Defence Remotely Operated Weapon (SD-ROW) optimised for 7.62 and 5.56 mm machine guns. Currently integrated are the M240, SS-77, MG3 and PKM in the larger calibre category and the M249 and the Mini SS in the smaller one. Typical optronic suite includes a two field-of-view day camera and a laser rangefinder. Weighing 75 kg with weapon and 200 rounds of ammo, its elevation are is -207+80[degrees] standard traverse being [+ or -]135[degrees], full 360[degrees] rotation being available as option. Three M10 bolts are all is needed to fix the SD-ROW on a vehicle roof. It is ready for production.

FN Herstal's portfolio has remained unchanged, with its three families, namely the deFNder Light, the deFNder Medium and the Arrows. The first is aimed at small 5.56 and 7.62 mm calibres, and weighs between 80 and 85 kg depending on the weapon. The deFNder Medium was developed as a light 12.7 mm solution tipping the scales at around 180 kg. The Arrows is also intended for 12.7 mm, although it could handle a MAG, with weight varying between 245 and 285 kg. Optionally a 40 mm automatic grenade launcher can also be installed. FN Herstal is developing a naval version of the deFNder Medium for anti-piracy missions. The Arrows has been installed on Belgian Army Dingo 2s and Piranha IIICs. It is also installed on the 110 command post versions of the VBCI under acquisition by the French Army (over 400 Arrows currently are in service, many of which downrange). In addition FN Herstal signed four major contracts with undisclosed countries for the direct delivery or local manufacturing of hundreds of Lights and Mediums.

A peculiar system is the Precision Remotes ultra-light system--around 34 kg--which can be easily installed or removed in five minutes with no tools as it fits on a standard 2.5-inch Nato ring mount.

Also available as a fully stabilised turret, it can be armed with 5.56 or 7.62 mm machine guns, with 600 or 400 rounds. It can be equipped with day/night optics and is controlled via a game-boy type console. Overall consumption is 170 W, which allows it to be installed even on vehicles with low power supply. In case of failure it can be reverted to manual control within seconds.

The Oto Melara Hitrole Light RCWS is being deployed in Afghanistan on board Italian Army Linces. Eight vehicles left Italy in October, while 66 out of 81 weapon stations were produced in mid-October and delivered to the Service that will install them on the Linces operated by various units. A further contract for the same systems is aimed at the VTMMs of the Italian Route Clearance Package. Two more Hitrole Lights have been ordered as part of the development contract for the Dardo IFV mortar carrier and command post. Currently the Hitrole Light has been integrated with the Browning 12.7 mm machine gun and the Mkl9 automatic grenade launcher, the sensor suite being the Mini Colibri provided by Selex Galileo. Oto Melara is open to other optronic packages, and in order to increase the exportability of its system is integrating a number of 7.62 mm and 12.7 mm machine guns, including of Eastern Europe origin, and the Singaporean STK 40 mm AGL. The turret is becoming fully symmetrical in order to accommodate left-or right-feed weapons. The standard Hitrole remains part of the company portfolio as it provides loading under armour capability and is better suited for naval purposes.

With its family of turrets ranging from the light R-150 and R-200 suited for 5.56 and 7.62 mm machine guns, through the R-400 suitable for 12.7 mm MGs and 40 mm AGLs, to the R-600 that can host two weapons, EOS of Australia is ploughing deep into the RCWS field. For three years now the company has beens working on long-distance wireless remote control. The first long-range wireless turret was unveiled in late 2010, paving the way to applications for remote-control ground vehicles. Interestingly, EOS is now focussing attentions on networking. In summer 2012 EOS partnered with Hyundai-YVea in South Korea and Northrop Grumman in the America to develop, produce and support its products in the two countries.

Krauss-Maffei Wegmann of Germany has bagged orders for over 1,650 FLWIOOs and FLW200s, of which over 850 have already been delivered. In late October 2012 the German Army filed a further order for the two variants (approximately 700 units). The FLW100, which can be armed with 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm machine guns, is used on Mungos and Dingos while the heavier FLW200, which can host 7.62 and 12.7 mm machine guns and 40 mm automatic grenade launchers, is used on MAN protected trucks, Boxer APCs and is proposed for the Leopard PSO upgrade. By late 2012 KMW will qualify its Wegmann Multi Purpose Launcher 40 capable of firing less-thaaa-lethal 40 mm grenades as an integrated system with its FLW, providing those with an escalation offeree capacity.

Pro-Optica of Romania offers the RGWS-RO, a system that can fire 5.56, 7.62 or 12.7 mm weapons of western or eastern origin. In addition to the day/night surveillance and targeting sensor suite, a laser rangefinder with 5 or 10 km measuring distance can also be installed to provid range data to the fire control system. Ballistic protection can be had on option. The RCWS-RO is installed on board Renault Trucks Defense Sherpa Light 4x4 scout vehicle exported to a Middle East country, understood to be Egypt.

In September 2012 Raytheon unveiled its BattleGuard. The weapon station is added to the existing optronics head: the latter is lifted off, the BattleGuard put in place and the sensor head dropped back into the BattleGuard ring. It was developed to equip Abrams and Bradleys without major modification and to reduce costs as the Commander's Independent Viewer thus also becomes the weapons stations main sensor. One or two weapons can be mounted on the sides of the BattleGuard. Numerous machine guns have been integrated as well as the Mkl9 automatic grenade launcher. It can also support Raytheon missiles such as the TOW, the Javelin, the Griffin and the Stinger. Non-lethal weapons can be added.

Reutech of South Africa produces the Rogue family of RCWS. The Land Rogue is designed for the Browning M2 12.7 mm machine gun, the weapon being totally encased and protected from dust and sand, which increases reliability. A multiple-cradle version can also accept 7.62 mm machine guns such as the Vektor SS-77, the FN MAG or the PKM, as well as Denel 40 mm AGLs. At less than 200 kg, it can be equipped with an optronic sensor suite chosen by the customer, that may also include a laser rangefinder. Being also aimed at naval applications, these turrets have a -40[degrees] depression angle, maximum elevation being +60[degrees]. Optical tracking and smoke grenade launchers are part of the possible options. The Land Rogue is in service with South African Special Forces units and 54 systems were ordered by Deftech, via Denel, to be installed on some versions of the Malaysian Army AV8 8x8. The bigger Super Land Rogue is mainly a medium calibre turret, being designed for a 20 mm cannon although it can host also a 12.7 mm machine gun..

The Slovak EVPU introduced a new version of its ZSRD07 light turret, unveiled in 2008. Still based on a U-type gyro-stabilised pan-tilt head and armed with a PKT 7.62 mm machine gun, the ammunition storage has been increased from 200/400 rounds to 250/450 rounds, a sensor showing the number of remaining rounds, while six smoke grenade launchers have been integrated. As for the sensor suite the ZSRD07 is equipped with a Britannia surveillance TV camera with a 48[degrees]x36[degrees] field of view with 1 xl8 optical and xl2 digital zooms, an HK75 aiming camera with a 3.7[degrees]x2.8[degrees] field of view, and an uncooled DRP-893 thermal camera with an 8[degrees]xl6[degrees] field of view and a x2 digital zoom.

For 12.7 mm machine guns and the AGS-17 30 mm AGL EVPU developed the ZSRD08. Introduced in 2010 it is heavier than the 07 -200 kg without weapons. It comes with a RYS surveillance camera with a wider field of view zooming from 56,4[degrees]x43,4[degrees] to 1,7[degrees]xl,3[degrees]. Due to the greater engagement range of up to 2,000 metres, the ZSRD08 sensor suite includes a laser 5,000 metre-capable rangefinders.

Caption: The Kongsberg Protector has become the benchmark in the RCWS world. Its Crows version has been installed on thousands of US forces vehicles. (Armada/Paolo Valpolini)

Caption: Among the most recent developments proposed by Rafael of Israel is the Mini Samson armed with the KVTP 12.7 mm machine gun. This version has already been ordered by an undisclosed customer. (Armada/Paolo Valpolini)

Caption: Among its latest developments Elbit Systems of Israel proposes the Dual version of its remote weapon stations family. (Elbit)

Caption: Saab Security and Defence developed the Trackfire that can host two weapons, the main one up to 25 mm, although light dual solutions can be adopted (Saab)

Caption: The self--defence Remotely Operated Weapon, or Row was developed by the South African arm of BAE Systems and can be quickly installed on any vehicle. (BAE Systems)

Caption: The deFNder Medium (left) is offered by FN Herstal for up to 12.7 mm machine guns (here an FN M2). The deFNder Light (right) can accept 5.56 and 7.62 mm machine guns. With weapon and ammunition its weight remains under TOO kg. (FN Herstal)

Caption: The Hitrole Light, produced by Oto Melara and here armed with an M2 12.7 mm MG, is being developed into new versions that can integrate weapons produced in Eastern Europe. (Armada/PV)

Caption: German Dingos on the move in Aghanistan armed with KMW FLW turrets. Orders for over 1,650 systems including the FLW 100 and FLW 200 have already been chalked up by KMW. (KMW)

Caption: The BattleGuard was developed by Raytheon as a modular unit that is added to existing optronic systems. It can be armed with two different weapons. (Raytheon)

Caption: Reutech Rogue Open Cradle can use many types of weapons although it does not protect them from dust and weather, while the Land Rogue is specifically developed for the M2 which is encased and protected. (Reutec)

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Title Annotation:LIGHT REMOTE-CONTROL TURRETS
Author:Valpolini, Paolo
Publication:Armada International
Date:Feb 1, 2013
Words:3173
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