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Turrets on a leash: while small calibre remotely controlled weapon stations (RCWS) have become a must to ensure self-defence firepower to most armoured vehicles (from protected trucks to main battle tanks), medium calibres and their longer range are required by patrols to enable them to engage the enemy before his weapon systems.

Drawing on experience garnered with the Samson 30 Mk1, Rafael of Israel developed the Samson 30 Mk2 where the ATK Mk44 30 mm gun is sheltered by an armoured case providing Level 1 protection, which can be increased to Level 4 with add-on armour kits. The turret maintains a very low silhouette making it a difficult target. With an elevation arc of -20[degrees]/+60[degrees], the Mk44 has a dual-feed system, with each of the two ammunition magazines containing 100 rounds. The crew protection can reload and carry out maintenance from inside (a hatch isolates the turret from the vehicle). A 7.62 mm machine gun or a 40 mm automatic grenade launcher are mounted to the right of the main gun. Commander and gunner each have their own dual-axis gyro-stabilised sighting system. The gunner's is boresighted to the gun while the commander's is a retractable panoramic sight, providing a hunter-killer capability. To improve crew situational awareness a hatch in the turret roof allows the commander to have a direct view of the outside world. The Samson 30 Mk2 can be equipped with two Rafael Spike LR antitank missiles launchers, while the main weapon can be replaced with other 30 to 40 mm calibre guns of Western or Eastern origin. Rafael proposes its new turret in four different configurations, and depending on the type of equipment installed and on protection level the Mark2 weight varies between 1400 and 2400 kg.

Another Israeli company, Elbit Systems, is also active in the medium calibre turret field with its UT25 and UT30. In September 2012 Elbit Systems received an initial production order for the supply of UT30 BR 30mm Unmanned Turrets to the Brazilian Army. Valued at $15 million those turrets will be installed onboard Iveco 6x6 "Guarani" APCs as part of a contract valued at approximately $260 million announced in January 2011. The number of turrets involved was not announced, but a first batch should be delivered within two years.

KMW of German unveiled a derivative of its FLW200 RCWS known as FLW200+. The new system can host not only light weapons, but also a 20 mm cannon, namely the Rheinmetall Rh202 DM6A1. The FW200+ weighs approximately 400 kg including the gun and one hundred 20x139 mm rounds, the Rh202 having a dual feed capability. Stabilised on two axis, it has an elevation arc of -10[degrees]/+50[degrees] and defined fire/no fire zones can be established by the crew. The optronic suite is hosted in a box on the right side of the mount and includes a CCD colour zoom camera, a laser rangefinder and a thermal imager; considering the longer ranges involved the TI system adopted is of the cooled type. Leveraging the family concept KMW maintained numerous components in common with the FLW100/200 RCWS, such as the control system and the display, as well as mechanical interfaces. The FLW200+ is designed to accept a further weapon system on the top; this can come in the form of either a missile launcher or a light machine gun, though self-defence grenade launchers can also be fitted.

In Belgium Cockerill Maintenance & Ingenierie (CMI) proved its flexibility in the medium calibre field with the remotely controlled weapon station--a derivative of the CPWS (Cockerill Protected Weapon Station) 20-25-30--integrated on board the Panhard Crab 4x4 unveiled at Eurosatory 2012. The CPWS protects the gun both from the ballistic threat and from the weather, but allows the crew to reload the gun from under armour. The gun is fully stabilised and has an elevation arc of -10[degrees]/+45[degrees], a dual mode day/night stabilised sighting system with laser range finder, while a panoramic sight able to reach a +60[degrees]elevation can be easily integrated thanks to the CAN Bus architecture. The ammunition rack can store up to 150 rounds of two types if the gun features a dual-feed system. The CPWS can be equipped with a hatch to allow the commander to have a direct view of the surroundings, a clear requirement from the French Army that was incorporated into the Crab turret. With the standard Level 1 protection the CPWS has a weight of 750-800 kg depending on the weapon, which may considerably increase should the customer choose a Level 4 protection level.

Cockerill is also offering a range of modular medium calibre two-man turrets that can host guns from 25 to 40 mm, with some growth potential up to 50 mm. Fully stabilised, with hunter-killer capability if a commander's panoramic sight is installed, they exploit the company common electronic architecture. Standard elevation arc is -20[degrees]/+60[degrees] although with ATK guns a maximum elevation of +75[degrees] can be reached. While standard protection is at Level 1, this can be increased up to Level 5 with add-on armour kits. A turret with a CTAI cased telescoped 40 mm gun was exhibited in 2010 on the Panhard Sphynx mock-up, the Sphynx being aimed at the French Army EBRC programme.

Two more turrets are eyeing the EBRC programme. Nexter introduced a new turret armed with the CTAI 40 mm gun at Eurosatory 2012. The French Army wants a two-man turret, but Nexter developed a fully modular system around a digital core, that allows it to be easily transformed into a remotely controlled system. A 360[degrees] day/ night vision system provides maximum situational awareness to the crew, while episcopes ensure a direct view capability An FN Arrows RCWS is mounted on top to provide self-protection fire. The main gun has an elevation arc of -15[degrees]/+60[degrees] while a 62-rounds carousel magazine allows to instantly select the required ammunition. On both sides of the turret a launcher for the MBDA MMP is installed. The missile container will be armoured at Level 3, the basic protection for the turret being Level 2, which can be increased using add-on armour. In the current configuration the turret weighs 4.2 tonnes, but its structure can accept a maximum weight of seven tonnes. Being fully digital the Nexter 40 CTA turret will be capable of accepting auxiliary systems in a plug-and-play mode. Currently, only the two-men version with full optional conversion has been built. As for the ARX20 remote controlled weapon station unveiled two years ago this is also a fully modular system, the top model including a secondary 7.62 mm weapon, a sophisticated optronic and an auto-tracking capacity. A number of options are currently being considered for this turret and new versions might soon be available.

At Eurosatory 2012 Panhard exhibited its Sphynx with a Lockheed Martin UK turret. The latter company leverages experience garnered with the Warrior CSP and the Scout SV programmes and proposes itself as a system integrator capable to provide a "turret on demand" rather than a turret producer with a defined turret portfolio. The Sphynx turret prototype structure has been designed by the company, and in spite of being a much smaller turret than the Scout SV's it adopts many its features. The experience acquired with the integration of the CTI 40 mm gun, which has no breech protruding in the turret compartment and is therefore a highly unbalanced gun, has been exploited, a mechanical balancing system being adopted while electrical power is used only for minor adjustments. Ammunition handling is also a derivative of the Scout SV's, the main gun having 70 rounds while the co-axial MG has 800. The man-machine interface as well as the fire control system also owe a lot to the British programme. But what allows to maintain such a degree of commonalities while ensuring an easy integration of GFE or customer-chosen components is the electronic architecture developed by Lockheed Martin, the company having worked hard on the UK DEF STAN 23-09 that defined the new Generic Vehicle Architecture to be adopted for future British vehicles. The Sphynx two-seat turret has a weight of around 3.5 tonnes unprotected, Level 4 protection increasing this to approximately 4.5 tonnes including the dual external guided missile launchers. Lockheed Martin is ready to carry on a similar operation for other vehicle programmes and provide tailored solutions and integrated services.

Rheinmetall's Lance modular turret structure was chosen as the base of the Lockheed Martin turret adopted for British SV programme. The turret chassis is not identical to that of the Lance and this allowed Rheinmetall to acquire further experience in customisation. As for the Lance turret per se, and following the delivery of the first two installed on Piranha Ms acquired by the Spanish Tercio de Armada, two other units should be delivered by the end of this year. A Lance turret was integrated on a Piranha 5 taking part in the Canadian Close Combat Vehicle testing phase. The Lance evolution draws on the Puma German IFV programme, some weapon functionalities as well as the Air Burst Munition (ABM) qualification taking place under that umbrella. Rheinmetall integrated and optimised the Lance on the Boxer 8x8 vehicle, that version having also been test-fired. During the turret development phase Rheinmetall's turret competence centre in Gersthofen built a test rig for troubleshooting purposes; this has now evolved in a simulation system that can be offered together with actual turrets to any potential customer. The Lance turret vetronics open architecture allows to integrate two different optronic systems, one dedicated to the commander, situational awareness systems, sniper locating systems, IFF etc. Its protection can be raised up to Level 4, while its 30 mm Rheinmetall gun can be fitted with the aforementioned ABM capability. Rheinmetall is intensifying its contacts with 8x8 chassis producers as well as with those countries that are looking at an 8x8 AIFV solution.

Drawing on the Hitfist family of medium calibre turrets experience, Oto Melara developed a remotely controlled version known as the Hitfist OWS to suit lighter vehicles, down to 10 tonnes, a feature that is attracting considerable interest from amphibious vehicle producers. The second prototype, shown at Eurosatory 2012, was very close to the production configuration. The turret is optimised to accommodate ATK 25 and 30 mm cannons and the evolution of such weapons that gives them an air-burst capability adds to the growth potential of the Oto Melara turret. The turret hosts a fully digital gyro-stabilized ATK MK44 30 mm cannon, a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun, and a twin missile launcher for missiles such as Spike, Kornet or Ingwe. Elevation range is between -10[degrees] and +75[degrees]. The gunner sight is gyro-stabilized in elevation and includes a Gen II thermal camera, a daylight colour TV camera, a laser range finder and a backup fibre optic sight for manual aiming. The commander's position can also be equipped with a stabilized panoramic day/night sight or a panoramic thermal imager. The company philosophy is to provide minimal protection to the cannon, mostly against environmental factors, Level 3 crew protection being ensured by the standard roof interface (solutions have been considered for increasing cannon protection to Level 3, 4 or even further). An optional hatch can be added to provide the commander with direct-view capability. The second prototype of the Hitfist OWS is being installed on a Freccia infantry fighting vehicle that will be sent to Russia for testing--this solution allows to increase the number of dismounts inside the vehicle.

BAE Systems South African Branch introduced at Eurosatory 2010 the Tactical Remote Turret (TRT) armed with the M242 Bushmaster 25 mm cannon, or TRT-B25. Complete with two 130-round bins, it weighs only 850 kg, including the 7.62 mm co-axial machine gun with its 1,000 ready rounds, four 76 mm smoke grenade launchers and the optronics. Fully stabilised, the TRT-B25 can fired on the move and has a -10[degrees]/+65[degrees] elevation range. At Africa Aerospace and Defence 2012 BAE Systems unveiled the second member of its TRT family, the TRT-30 armed with the Russian Shipunov 2A42 30 mm automatic cannon. The turret is also armed with an Eastern Europe 7.62 mm co-axial machine gun and can be equipped with antitank missiles of the same origin. Remotely controlled by a single operator it can be home to other guns of between 25 and 35 mm. The new turret incorporates various lessons learned and therefore the TRT-B25 will be in future a subset of the TRT-R30, commonality between the various turret models being estimated at 95 per cent for the electronics and 70 per cent for the structure. A wider cradle was installed and the structure was modified to accommodate more weight and functionalities. The number of ready rounds was increased, the TRT-R3OMK carrying up to 400 30 mm rounds and 1,000 machine-gun rounds, resulting in a combat weight of 1,435 kg. The TRT was qualified under engineering trials and is ready for user evaluation and production. The use of the two different cannons gives BAE Systems the flexibility of Nato and non Nato weapons and hence a bigger market to aim at.

BAE Systems' Global Combat Systems-Weapons Lemur remote control weapon system was shown in 2009 in its new version capable to host not only small calibre weapons, but also 25 and 30 mm guns. Initially offered with ATK M242 25 mm Bushmaster chain gun, the ATK M230LF 30 mm cannon has since been integrated. Both configurations offer an elevation of -20[degrees] to +55[degrees]. Combat-proven with lighter weapons, the Lemur is still looking for a contract in its medium calibre configuration.

TURRET, OR WEAPON STATION? Following the presentation of a prototype in 2009 Kongsberg of Norway continued the development of its medium calibre remotely controlled turret. Kongsberg underlines the fact that its medium calibre system is not a weapon station but a turret, as it considers it vital to protect the gun not only from the ballistic threat but also from sand and weather conditions, ballistic protection being ranging from Level 1 to Level 5 (see our title picture). The latest design incorporates new features; the cannon is the new stretched version of ATK's 30 mm Mk44 fitted for air burst munitions that should be qualified in late 2012. It features a linkless ammunition feed that reduces reloading time and improves reliability; no jamming occurred while firing over 50,000 rounds. The linkless system is slightly more expensive than the traditional one, but is well compensated by the savings on links. The cannon maintains the original dual-feed feature with first round selection. The turret allows reloading under armour and can host other weapons in the 20-50 mm calibre range, its optronic suite being tailored to the weapon installed in terms of identification range. The company expects a first contract in late 2012.

In 2011 FNSS unveiled a new remotely controlled turret known as Claw. Armed with a Rheinmetall KBA 25 mm dual-feed cannon it features a coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun installed on the right of the main weapon, while two series of four 76 mm smoke grenade launchers are mounted at the back. Stabilised on two axis, its fire control system includes an auto-tracker while the sighting system features an independent stabilised sight with thermal camera, day camera and laser rangefinder. Sitting low--height is limited to 590 mm--the Claw carries 160 ready rounds for the main gun and 200 for the coax, its weight being of 1,500 kg in the standard configuration, that is with Level 2 protection. FNSS kept a growth potential for its new product, since the Claw can cradle a 30 mm cannon, receive an antitank missile launcher on the left side and an independent commander's sight on its roof, while protection can be increased at Level 3.

An Otokar Mizrak-30 medium calibre remotely controlled turret functional mock-up was unveiled at IDEF 2011 on an Arma 8x8. Final prototypes were then built, tests started in early 2012 while software optimization is still underway. The Mizrak-30 is a high-tier turret with independent stabilized commander's and gunner's sights with auto-tracking. Both sights include a cooled thermal camera, a CCD day camera and a laser rangefinder. Mizrak prototypes are armed with a -10[degrees]/+60[degrees] elevation, electromechanical feed 30mm cannon, each feed channel having 104 ready rounds. The turret modular designs allows to integrate other types of cannon from 25 to 40 mm calibre, as well as anti-tank missiles, laser warning receiver, soft/hard kill systems, C3I, etc. Standard protection is at Level 2 but modular armour kits can increase it up to Level 5. A coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun with 500 ready rounds completes the weaponry. The Mizrak combat ready weight is 2.7 tons. Final field tests are to be finished by early 2013, the turret being ready for serial production in mid-2013. Otokar is carrying out some design activities for a few variants having different main armaments and for a manned turret concept.
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Author:Valpolini, Paolo
Publication:Armada International
Date:Dec 1, 2012
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