Posted on 01 December 2013 by admin
Firepower For All Needs
The need for increased protection and surveillance capabilities played a major role in the development of the light remotely controlled weapon station (RCWS) for light vehicles intended for patrol, reconnaissance and combat missions. They are thus designed to replace the pintle-mounted weapon which tended to over-expose the gunner to the enemy fire. They also offer an alternative to one-man turrets that were too heavy for most of the lighter vehicles.
In addition to the above, the threat to lines of communications in an asymmetric warfare scenario led to a new possible market for such systems, namely their installation on logistic vehicles. Moreover, vintage armoured personnel carriers – wheeled or tracked – originally equipped with pintle mounts, found in the RCWS a solution to maintain their military effectiveness, providing their protection was sufficient. So much for the mobile role.
The need for protection in the numerous forward operating bases (FOBs) and combat outposts (COPs) that have characterised the Afghan mission has, however, led to the use of RCWS also for base defence. Here stabilisation becomes redundant, and some companies are thus looking at ways of offering cheaper solutions in a world of shrinking budgets. As noted initially, remotely controlled weapon stations do not provide just firepower, but thanks to their optronic sighting systems they play a useful role in situational awareness, surveillance and, when linked to a recording device, intelligence gathering. Thermal imagers certainly have a cost (especially the uncooled thermal variety), but their prices are now on the decline.
Another issue linked to cost is the capability of decoupling the weapon from the sights: today it is more tactful to observe without training the weapon over civilians, so being able to keep the machine gun at its maximum elevation while panning the optronic package definitely can be a diplomatic advantage. Another issue that has nourished debates is under armour ammunition reloading, as this entails a heavier structure and associated higher cost, but ensures maximum safety in combat.
Medium calibre systems, armed with automatic cannon of between 20 and 50 mm, are installed in manned or unmanned turrets, or in overhead weapon stations. Turrets have the advantage of protecting the weapon and ammunition from both weather and enemy fire. Manned turrets require a ballistic protection similar to that of the carrier vehicle, which makes them relatively heavy.
Maintaining the commander and gunner in the direction of the gun or decoupling them to accommodate them in the vehicle remains matter for conjecture when calibres increase, with resistance toughening when even higher calibres are involved. The main advantages of a remotely controlled turret are the lack of a basket, which increases the available volume in the vehicle combat compartment, and the reduced need of upper ballistic protection (Level 2 being more than acceptable) and therefore reduced weight. A disputed issue that emerged from lessons learned downrange is that of the availability of a hatch allowing the commander to acquire a direct view of the surroundings; while with light RCWS this is obtained installing the system in a position that allows to maintain one of the vehicle hatches free, medium calibre turrets dimensions do not allow such a solution. Thus a hatch on top of the turret itself is required, as with manned turrets. This commands an opening in the vehicle roof to access the turret, a solution often adopted to ensure maintenance and under-armour ammunition reloading, as well as an empty passage in the turret to allow the commander to reach the hatch. However, the lack of a basket may lead to limitations to turret movement, the system being normally frozen for safety reasons when personnel is moving up or down. Sighting systems improve with weapons ranges and thereby provide better surveillance capabilities; in addition those turrets are very often equipped with panoramic sights for the commander, a privilege hitherto reserved to main battle tanks.
Lessons learned have clearly proved the importance of surveillance and target acquisition. Many armies are therefore installing such systems more for those missions than for hunter-killer capabilities. Another often considered solution is that of the “turret-on-turret”, where a light RCWS is installed over a medium or heavy calibre turret to provide not only surveillance (albeit with reduced performance compared to the longer range sensors typical of panoramic sights), but also close range protection.
Materials technology as well as improved recoil systems have allowed to produce new turrets equipped with full pressure 105 and 120 mm tank guns in for chassis of 25 tonnes upwards. While wheeled chassis that can be equipped with such turrets are available in relatively limited numbers, many tracked chassis can withstand the weight and recoil of main battle tank guns, thus becoming in fact light tanks in their own right. As depicted in the Armada’s recent Compendium on IFVs and APCs, trends in terms of platform weight are quite contrasting: some who were hitherto “fans of heavies”, such as Israel, are now looking at medium weight solutions while those who advocated mobility and operational deployability, the United States, seem to be going in the opposite direction – towards heavy solutions. What nevertheless remains true is that MBTs are not necessarily the most viable solution for armies that do not look at a full spectrum warfare scenario, and the plethora of turrets of various weights, calibres and architecture can answer many of today requirements.
Light for Lights
While most RCWS can host 5.56, 7.62 and 12.7 mm machine guns and 40 mm automatic grenade launchers, some can accept the smaller calibre automatic cannon normally used in medium-calibre turrets and weapon stations, becoming the trait d’union between the two categories.
The Norwegian company, part of the Kongsberg Group, remains by large the main provider of RCWS, with nearly 17,000 such systems delivered in 17 countries. Its Protector has been developed in various versions, becoming a sort of benchmark in the light RCWS field, the system being constantly upgraded to answer new market requirements. Leveraging experience garnered with the M151 that featured integrated smoke grenade launchers, the Norwegian company developed the M153, though it sheds the grenade launchers in favour of some side ballistic protection and adopts a new ammunition loading system. The type won the US Army Crows II contract in 2007 followed by a number of follow-on orders, the last one occurring in September 2013. According to lessons learned from the field, the adoption of the Crows II allowed to reduce 12.7 mm ammunition consumption by 70% thanks to the dramatic increase in first-round accuracy. Another major contract was obtained from an undisclosed customer in November 2012, while in April 2013 a further contract for an undisclosed number of Protectors in the Nordic configuration was signed as part of the framework agreement finalised with Norway and Sweden two years earlier. The Nordic is currently the most sophisticated version of the Protector; beside the 4th generation fire control system it features a new sensor suite developed in-house that includes three separate cameras with different FoVs, from 1.6° to 95°, the latter being provided by the Kongsberg Day Camera VIS 95 that considerably increases situational awareness, an 850 nm infrared aiming laser providing pinpoint accuracy. In addition, the Nordic also allows decoupling the weapon elevation from that of the sensor suite to ensure surveillance in a non-threatening posture in missions other than war. A version with three cameras is also being developed, which will allow combining “picture in picture” on the screen with three images having different fields of view. In May 2013 Croatia signed a further contract for Protectors for installation on the AMV 8x8s being produced locally under license from Patria.
While vehicle installations remain its main application, the Protector is also seen as a suitable static defence system. At AUSA 2012 the company unveiled the Containerised Weapon Station (CWS) based on an ISO-rated Tricon Type 1 container. Equipped with a rigid-chain electromechanical lift it can raise a Crows II RCWS at a lofty 4.6 metres in less than 30 seconds. The weapon station also integrates a Javelin missile on its right (a small electronic box houses the interface). When the latter is to be used the turret is switched to missile mode so that the operator can see the image provided by the Javelin seeker. The CWS is powered by a multifuel generator and a battery pack, and a Standoff Extension Kit allows it to be linked to a command centre up to one kilometre away. Some 20 CWS are currently deployed to Afghanistan with the US Army and special operations units as part of forward observation bases protection suites. A multiple control station has been purposely developed for such use.
Another recent addition to the Protector/Crows flexibility is the M134 Weapon Adapter Kit (WAK) which enables Special Operations Forces to install the M134 7.62 six-barrel Gatling machine gun on the company RCWS. The kit includes the weapon cradle, weapon interfaces, remote activator, gun control unit, 24V battery with charging module and a 3,000-round ammunition magazine feed system. The system is now being delivered.
Another kit is the Sea Protector, which allows the M153 Protector to be optimised for maritime operations. The kit includes sealed subsystems and components, improved corrosion resistance, a modified sensor package and an improved tracking system. Kongsberg is delivering the Sea Protector to the US Navy, where it is known as the Mk50, for installation on small patrol boats and special operations craft.
In order to allow lighter vehicles to be equipped with an RCWS, Kongsberg developed the Protector Lite that features the same user interface of the original M151 and M153 and a commonality of over 80%. Weighing 100 kg less than the Nordic Protector, the Protector Lite can be armed with an M240 or a MAG 58/C6 7.62 mm machine gun or an M249 5.56 mm MG. Its sensor suite includes a dual FoV thermal imager with electronic zoom, a colour daylight camera with a 45° FoV and a x30 optical zoom, and an eye-safe laser rangefinder. An even lighter solution comes in the form of the Protector SuperLite, which weighs 30 kg. It is currently being considered by various nations in a tripod-mounted configuration, especially for Special Forces. An optical fibre link allows the operator to stay some kilometres away from the system and to use the Super Lite via the new Play Station/Hand-held controller developed by Kongsberg, which delivered the first of 510 units on order in October 2013.
This American company founded in 1997 near San Francisco has developed a series of very light remotely operated weapon station (ROWS) that can be easily used both for mounted or dismounted missions.
The TRAP T360 platform weighs only 34 kg, but can support an M249 SAW 5.56 mm machine gun or an M240 or MG3 7.62 mm MG. The system cannot take a 12.7 mm machine gun, but is however designed to accept a Barrett M82A1M or M107 sniper rifle. The sensor suite includes a daytime camera with a 1.6° to 42° field of view zoom, a thermal imager and a laser rangefinder, though being sensor agnostic it allows the customer to choose his own sensor package. Optionally a less-than-lethal green laser can also be installed. Fully stabilised on three axis, the TRAP T360 can be trained over 360°, while its elevation sweep can go from +60° to –20°, with manual backup on both axis. The fire control system provides an adjusted aiming point that takes the type of ammunition, the range and the parallax error with the camera into account. The system can in addition store up to three targets. External sensors such as shotgun detectors can be easily integrated to provide cueing for the T360. As mentioned initially the T360 can easily be reconfigured without tools in a few minutes from vehicle-mounted to tripod dismounted configuration, in which case it can be powered by battery, generator or solar panel, or any 10 or 220 VAC network.
The latter capacity comes to hand when the TRAP T360 is used to defend fixed positions. To this end Precision Remotes has developed the TRAP 360FS (for Facility Security) that features an environmental housing where the system is locked in a safe position, and is deployed in less than 5 seconds when the need arises. They are linked to a command post that features a series of operators’ consoles and a supervisor console. Operators’ consoles include an aiming monitor that displays the image collected by the camera, a touch-screen monitor providing the map of the facility highlighting the weapon locations and their status, and a control panel. Operators can switch from one station to another touching the screen, select the sensors, open or shut down one or all ROWS at a time, pre-select targets and no-fire zones, select the firing mode, and fire the weapons once the supervisor has given its consent through his own console, which includes a touch screen and a panel. Safety considerations were among top priorities during system development, Precision Remotes systems being used in the America for critical infrastructures safety such as nuclear plants.
Weapons currently supported by the TRAP 360FS are the same as the standard 360’s, plus the SR 25 and LR 3087.62 mm sniper rifles. The company also developed the TRAP T360I for static defence purposes, this model being designed to hang from a ceiling; it can be fitted only with the M240 machine gun with 180 ready rounds. The stabilization components are not included in the T360FS and T360I as they are an unnecessary expense for fixed applications. However both versions can both be outfitted with stabilization, should the need arise. Precision Remotes has received inquiries over suitability for on mounting the T360I on a dirigible or even a helicopter, applications for which stabilisation is a must.
The latest addition to Precision Remotes’ portfolio is the NetROWS, a small size black box that allows to network up to 16 ROWS and to control them from a netbook. This was developed following the many requests to connect T360s to an existing indigenous command centre; as the latter never went through safety testing for controlling a weapon station, the project often was stopped and the weapon station remained separately controlled from the command centre, thus the ultimate in speed of response was not achieved. The NetROWS was thus designed to enable safe and secure connection to an indigenous command centre, its dimensions allowing a quick set-up of a temporary defence system in a FOB or COP, providing the same advantages of those systems used for critical facilities protection; once the threat is detected it is sent to the command centre and its location is transmitted directly to the weapon station, weapon station; this is slewed directly to the target location, the operator then verifying the threat and taking action.
Electro Optic Systems
EOS in short, this Australian company with a strong arm in the United States has in its catalogue two light RCWS, known as EOS R-200 and R-400. In America the company has an agreement with Northrop Grumman, which holds an 8.8% stake in Electro Optic Systems, to jointly pursue the market for remote weapon systems in country, while in 2012 an agreement was signed with South Korean Hyundai-Wia of Changwon, including production. The lighter R-200 has remained for the time being at prototype stage, with four supplied to the US Army for testing in Iraq. It can be armed with 5.56 and 7.62 mm machine guns but tips the scales at 80 kg when fitted with an M240 with 200 rounds. Fully stabilised, it is equipped with a full optronic system that includes a day camera with a x30 zoom, a cooled thermal imager and a 7.5km laser rangefinder, Besides its the self-defence capacity the R-200 also provides the vehicle with a much better reconnaissance and targeting capacity.
The R-400 is the company’s bestseller, with over 500 systems sold. It won the first Crows contract and is also in service in the Australian and Netherlands armies. The R-400 can host machine guns from 5.56 to 12.7 mm calibre and 40 mm automatic grenade launchers and reaches 250 kg with a 12.7 mm MG and 500 rounds. The optronic package is that described for the R-200. Key parts can be protected thanks to a Level 2 kit. While the structure of the R-200 and R-600 dual structures are built in aluminium, that of the R-400 retains a steel structure. It was selected for use on the Airbus Military C-295 gunship currently in development for Jordan, armed with ATK’s M230LF 30 mm cannon.
The Belgian weapons manufacturer portfolio comprises the deFNder Light and the deFNder Medium, launched respectively in 2011 and 2012. The Light can carry the MAG and Minimi in 7.62 mm calibre and the Minimi in 5.56 mm, the above deck weight varying from 75 to 85 kg fully loaded in basic configuration. The weapon is located on the left of the mount, which is encased in an aluminum structure, with the ammunition box on the left of the weapon. The standard box has 250 or 200 rounds, though a higher box can hold up to 600 7.62 mm rounds or 1,050 5.56 mm rounds.
The optronic sensor pod is located on the right and includes a colour CCD camera with zoom. A pod integrating also a thermal uncooled camera with dual field of view being is offered as optional as well as that with a laser rangefinder, a ballistic computer being in that case added to the system. The below deck element includes the operator console with a 1024×768 pixels LCD colour screen and the control handle; target tracking and autoscan are also available. The base deFNder Light is not stabilised, two-axis stabilisation being offered as option as well as a Level 1 modular protection. Most of these are installed on vehicles; however the considerable elevation arc, -60°/+80°, allows them to be employed for other purposes such as base protection.
The second system is the deFNder Medium that can integrate the same weapons as the Light as well as all FN machine guns up to 12.7 mm (the M2HB-QCB and the FN M3R, the latter capable of 1,100 rpm rate of fire), as well as 40mm automatic grenades launchers. Depending on the configuration its weight varies from 150 to 190 kg. The architecture is similar, the optronic suite being proposed in two versions, with CCD and uncooled thermal imager or with CCD and cooled thermal imager. Options are similar to those of the Light, the ballistic protection being proposed also in Level 2 while a smoke grenade launcher module is also available. The maximum capacity of the ammo box is 500 rounds of 12.7 mm or 1,000 rounds of 7.62 mm. As in the case of the Light the depression angle is much greater that that of most its competitors, at -42°, thus giving it a considerable flexibility of use, maximum elevation being +73°. A new version, the Sea deFNder Medium, is currently in the qualification phase following a recent contract with a Nato Navy.
As usual FN is not much talkative about its clients, the company confirming that the deFNder Light and the deFNder Medium are booking commercial success with hundreds RWS under contract with undisclosed Nato and non-Nato end users.
In the mid-2000 KMW started developing the Fernbedienbare Leichte Waffenstation 100 (FLW100 for remotely controlled light weapon station 100) designed to German Army requirements, soon followed by a second version, the FLW200, the main difference being that the former one can host automatic weapons up to 7.62 mm calibre while the latter can be armed with a 12.7 mm machine gun and even with a 40 mm automatic grenade launcher.
When the weapon is replaced the system recognises automatically the new one and sets the firing computer ballistic tables accordingly. The number of rounds carried can vary according to the mission, two ammo boxes being available for the 7.62 mm calibre respectively with 120 and 250 rounds, a solution with enhanced capacity up to 480 rounds being currently implemented for the MG3, the 12.7 mm weapon being provided either with 100 or 200 ammo box, while the 40 mm AGL has a 32 rounds capacity. Both stations are mounted without roof penetration, over roof weight being respectively 80 and 160 kg without weapons and ammunition. Elevation arc of –5°/+75° copes well with urban and mountain terrains.
Both turrets have electronic dual axis stabilisation, the weapon and the optronic system being thus separately stabilised. In the FLW100 the optronic pod is located on the left of the weapon, behind the ammunition box, the FLW200 featuring the optronic on the right side. Also the sensors are common, with a CCD colour camera with a x10 zoom for daylight operations offering an identification range of 1.5 km, and an uncooled 640×480 thermal imager with an ID range of one kilometre. It can be replaced in the FLW200 by a cooled thermal camera to extend identification to two kilometres. Modularity allows to adapt the optronic suite to customers needs. The command and display system remains the same for both weapon stations, featuring a 12-inch colour screen.
Since 2008 the Bundeswehr acquisition totalled over 920 weapon stations, which were installed on all the types of vehicles used by German troops in Afghanistan such as the Dingo 1 and 2, the Boxer, the Fennek, the TPz Fuchs, and the Eagle IV. To improve self-protection the FLW200 has been fitted with Wegmann 76 mm smoke grenade launchers, while for training purposes the Agdus laser simulation system was integrated in both weapon stations. KMW bagged an export order from Qatar, which will install the FLW200 on its Leopard 2A7 MBT turret.
KMW is continuing to upgrade the FLW100/200 systems according to lessons learned from operations. The Wegmann 40 mm less-than-lethal system is being adapted on the FLW100. The H&K 121 7.62 mm machine gun is being integrated as a possible replacement for the current MG3. As for the FLW200, the electrically driven Rheinmetall RMG 12.7 is also being integrated in the station. Another improvement being implemented is the increase of the ammunition to 480 rounds for the MG3 in the FLW100. Multi-position operation is also under implementation to allow more than one soldier in a vehicle to observe and fire. An ammunition counter, a high-pressure cleaning system for sensors and networking with warning sensors and BMS are also part of the potential improvements list.
Dynamit Nobel Defence
Better known for its antitank rocket launchers, Dynamit Nobel Defence built in the last years two light turrets that provide both machine gun and Panzerfaust and RGW firepower. The lighter one is the Fewas 80 that carries 5.56 or 7.62 mm machine guns, with to its right the typical armoured sensor pod that houses a CCD camera, a thermal imager and a laser rangefinder.
The bigger Fewas 120 can be armed with weapons up to 12.7 mm machine gun or 40 mm AGL and its architecture is similar to that of the junior member of the family, albeit the pod is bigger to accommodate sensors that match the weapons range. This version can also accept DND rocket launchers the Panzerfaust and RGW90 families. All installable weapons are boresighted at various distances, data being fed into the computer. In action the gunner has just to “lase the target” ,set the crosshairs on the target and fire. The Fewas 80 and 120 have been sold in numbers on the export market around the world.
The firm’s turrets find their roots in the South African arm of the company, the lightest system being the SD-Row, the acronym standing for Self Defence Remotely Operated Weapon. This weapon station has been seen around with western machine guns in 5.56 and 7.62 mm calibres, namely the M249 and Mini SS and the M240, MAG-58, MG3 and SS-77. It has now been shown with the eastern world’s PKT 7.62 mm weapon with ammunition feeding from the right-hand side. Affordable, light and simple to use, especially on small vehicles, the SD-Row weighs about 75 kg including the weapon and 200 rounds of ammunition. It uses a day camera for targeting, a laser rangefinder and an infrared camera being available on option. The system stabilisation allows to engage targets whilst on the move, traverse speed being 100°/sec. Elevation arc reaches 85°, standard traverse being ±135°, full 360° rotation being available on request.
The second system, which is part of BAE Systems light turrets, is the Overhead Manual Turret, introduced in 2009 at DSEI. It is now offered as a modular item to which numerous systems can be added to make it a Gucci product. The main improvement is provided by the electrical drive in azimuth (a manual back-up is maintained) allowing for a much faster target detection and engagement. Both day and night sensors have been replaced by better types, the thermal camera being supplied by Thales Canada, the sensors suite remaining scalable to cope with customers requirements. Day and night vehicle target identification range is in excess of one kilometre and the laser rangefinder reaches out to 2.5 km. The ballistic solution is fed into the operator video display unit. The operator can have a direct view of the surrounding scenario through seven episcopes located in the lower part of the turret, though an eighth larger episcope covers the frontal 45° angle. Elevation, between –10° and +45°, is controlled through a hand wheel located on the left, and the sighting maintains a backup in the form of a red dot sight zeroed at 500 metres to be used in case of failure of electro-optic sensors. The Overhead Manual Turret can accept 7.62 mm and 12.7 mm machine guns and 40 mm AGLs, and has four smoke grenade launchers located on the two sides of the weapon mount. Combat weight varies from 500 to 550 kg according to the optional systems and the weapon installed. It is fully developed and ready for production, BAE Systems estimating first deliveries six months after an order. According to the company its main asset is that it is “much less expensive than an RCWS”.
Reutech in South Africa developed a light turret capable to host the typical 7.62 and 12.7 mm machine guns and 40 mm automatic grenade launcher. Weapons currently integrated into what is known as Multiple Cradle Land Rogue are three 7.62 mm machine guns, the South African Vektor SS-77, the Belgian FN MAG or the PKM of Russian origin, the Browning M2 12.7 mm machine gun, and the Denel 40 mm automatic grenade launcher. Also anti-materiel rifles in 20mm x 82mm such as the Denel LS NTW 20 can also be installed, a requirement for this came from a South African customer. Interestingly, when installing a PKM the ammunition magazine remains on the left, the ammo chute passing over the weapon to allow right-side feed. Reutech proposes an optronic package that includes a two-field of view CCD day sight (cooled or uncooled thermal imaging is a custumer choice), though the laser rangefinder is provided as option. It features an optical auto-tracking system and its depression and elevation angles are pretty high, respectively –40° and +60°, which is useful for vehicle in urban warfare and or vessel applications. This station is in service with the South African Special Forces and 54 unites are being supplied to Malaysia, via Denel, for installation on the AV8 8×8 personnel carrier. These are armed with a 12.7 mm machine gun and feature 76 mm smoke grenade launchers at the base of the mount, for the time being the only weapon systems qualified on that mount (the 7.62 mm MG and 40 mm AGL have however being thoroughly tested).
A Sea Rogue model is also available to the South African Navy and the UAE Coast Guard. A version dedicated to the Browning M2 known as Land Rogue or Sea Rogue sees the weapon encased into a pod that provides only environmental protection and avoids stoppages due to sand, dust, salt water, etc.
A hybrid missile-machine gun turret is also part of the Reutech portfolio. Known as the Missile Rogue, it retains the Browning 12.7 mm machine gun for vehicle self defence, the principal weapons being the Denel Ingwe antitank missiles or the Thales LMM laser guided missiles. Its traverse is limited to ±150° with a –10°/+40° elevation arc. It can accommodate up to four missiles and the machine gun with 100 rounds for an overall weight of less than 500 kg.
To cope with longer ranges the Carl Zeiss (now Cassidian) Leo-III-HD observation system is proposed, which includes a 50Hz Progressive Scan Attica Z 640-2 MW thermal imager and a 50Hz Progressive Scan HD Multi-spectral Zoom TV camera, a medium repetition eye safe laser rangefinder being proposed as option. The Missile Rogue has been integrated tested between Reutech, Cassidian SA and Thales in Ireland, however the programme was frozen before live missile tests due to delays with the potential client.
This Israeli company’s Samson family features two light members, the Samson Junior and the Samson Mini. With an over-deck assembly weighing between 75 and 100 kg the Samson Junior is the lightest and can be armed with 7.62 or 5.56 mm machine guns, as well as with sharpshooter’s rifles or less-than-lethal effectors. The 400- or 600-round magazine, depending on calibre, endows light armoured vehicles with considerable firepower.
The larger Samson Mini provides the firepower of the Israel Defence Forces Namer infantry fighting vehicle based on the Merkava 4 chassis. It can accommodate anything between a 5.56 mm machine gun and a 12.7 MG, and even a 40 mm grenade launcher. Shifting from one weapon to another is simple and quick as they all feature the same cradle.
This is not true, however, for the latest Samson Mini dedicated to the 14.5 mm KPVT machine gun produced for an undisclosed customer. Indeed, to withstand that heavier weapon and its higher recoil Rafael modified the structure and some actuators. Optronic sensors are installed in an armoured pod on the right, while some optional armour can be positioned in front of the weapon itself to provide some ballistic protection. This of course increases the system weight, which is of some 200 kg excluding weapon and ammunition. The Samson Mini of the IDF are stabilised and feature some add-on armour to protect the sight pod, the front cradle and the actuators, which adds 50 kg; they are produced in America by Marvin Land Systems, the systems having been acquired thanks to FMS funds, and are assembled at Rafael’s main plant in Haifa. This is the facility where all the other Samson Minis are produced. Thousands of turrets are in service in at least 13 countries, one of the most recent clients being Colombia for its newly acquired LAV III 8×8. Most of them however, are devoid of additional armour.
The Samson Mini is also the effector of the Sentry Tech, a line-up of pillboxes linked by optical fibre to a remote C4I centre, each pillbox being equipped with a top-mounted turret. The system is integrated with security and intelligence sensors and is proposed for base perimeter security.
Israel Military Industries
IMI’s portfolio does not include any super-light system, all models being able to cradle a 7.62 or 12.7 mm machine gun. The first system developed was the Wave 100 that is no more produced. Currently two systems are in production, one being designed for Western weapons, the other for Eastern weapons. The Wave 200 is the one dedicated to left-fed 7.62 and 12.7 mm machine guns, with can also accept a Heckler & Koch 40 mm automatic grenade launcher. This additional feature brings the weight of the bare system to 170 kg, with a small added height penalty. The optronic package on the right includes a daylight camera with zoom, a thermal imager and a laser rangefinder. Sensors are provided at customer’s choice. Fully stabilised, IMI RCWSs are equipped with image stabilisation, image enhancement, motion detection and target tracking. Additional options include add-on ballistic armour protection, debriefing/DVR systems, built-in simulator, cooled night sensors for increased target recognition and identification, hostile fire detection and gun enslaving towards threat location, C41/BMS connectivity and so forth. The weapon station can be equipped with standard ammunition cases or with double cases for increased firepower.
The Wave 300 architecture had to be changed due to the weapon installed, which can be either a PKT 7.62 mm or an NSVT 12.7 mm machine gun. Those Soviet-era weapons are right-fed, thus the optronic package is moved to the left. The Wave 300 capabilities are similar to those of the other ones. The 300 weighs only 150 kg weight without weapon and ammunition thanks to a more compact electro-optical pod and to a more advanced pedestal.
Both the Wave 200 and 300 are in service, the latter currently being the object of a potentially lucrative contract. IMI is ready to accept technology transfer and to set up a local production in co-operation with a national industry. A noteworthy point is that the 300 has been developed in some specific configurations to meet customers’ requirements, one of which is dubbed the Wave 350. A further development currently still at prototype stage is the Wave 400, which aims at putting together the capabilities of the 200 and the 300 able to cater to both eastern and western weapons, though two different versions will be necessary due to the different feeds, but a high commonality will be retained.
A very peculiar system developed by IMI is the Bright Arrow, which combines the performances of an RCWS with those of the Iron Fist active protection system. The sensors installed on the mount, radio frequency, thermal imaging and CCD cameras, not only allow to operate the Iron Fist soft- and hard-kill effectors, but also provide the vehicle crew full situational awareness. The system can be installed on light vehicles as its overall weight is of only 250 kg.
Two light RCWS are part of the Israeli company portfolio, one accepting machine guns up to 7.62 mm, the other from 5.56 to 12.7 mm and 40 mm grenade launchers. Both are fully stabilised and feature a full optronic suite. The heavier of the two also features dual axis stabilisation, manual back-up, automatic target tracking, and superelevation allowing to decouple the optical pod from the weapon. The 12.7 was selected by Austria to be installed on its Iveco DV LMV 4×4 light armoured vehicles. The overall weight of the 7.62 RCWS is less than 150 kg with weapon and 690 rounds of ammunition, the amount of rounds being increasable to 1,150 at customer’s will.
Besides its Israel-related activities, Elbit Systems has a subsidiary in Brazil that is also active in the RCWS field, namely Aeroespacial e Defensa Ltda. Also known as Ares, it developed the Remax, a light weapon station for 7.62 MAG and 12.7 mm Browning HB M2 machine guns. The system is fully stabilised. The elevation servomotors are on the right, while the left side carries the ammunition box as well as the optronic pod that allows standard Nato target detection and identification at five and one kilometres respectively. The Remax is installed over a cylindrical pedestal to increase above vehicle clearance and allow shooting at maximum depression, -10°. Four smoke grenade launchers are attached to the pedestal itself. The maximum weight of the system is 200 kg. Ares was awarded two successive contracts in September and October 2012 worth $40 million for an undisclosed number of systems to be installed on the Brazilian Army Guarani 6×6 APCs.
The Finmeccanica electronic company is currently marketing its Enforcer II RCWS, a fully stabilised system capable of hosting weapons such as 7.62 and 12.7 mm machine guns and 40 mm AGLs. The roof assembly weighs 156 kg without weapon and ammunition, standard respective round capacities being 500, 200 and 32 rounds, while an option for a higher capacity box raises those figures to 800, 400 and 96. The Enforcer II is equipped with Selex’s Staws Surveillance Target Acquisition and Weapon Sight, which is located on the right of the weapon and includes a 1/3” colour CCD day camera, and a 320 x 240 uncooled thermal imager with narrow (4° x 3°) and wide (12° x 9°) fields of view. At night it is possible to detect a vehicle target at 5 km and to identify it at one, while in daytime those figures are increased to 7.5 and 1.6 km. A laser rangefinder can be added as option, as well as superelevation for AGL shooting, maximum elevation being 60°. Options include ballistic protection, round counter, remote cocking, digital magnetic compass, GPS and target location capability. A full 640 x 480 uncooled thermal imager can replace the standard one.
Selex ES still provides some Enforcer turrets, which is slightly lighter at 139 kg, the main difference stemming from the powered-assisted elevation which is limited to –10°/+45° though the +60° elevation is only obtained through manual operation. The Enforcer was a licensed version of the Rafael Samson Mini, which has been adopted in large numbers by the British Army for the Challenger II, the Bulldog, the Panther and the Ridgeback.
Mostly active in the medium calibre field, the Italian company’s Hitrole Light saw its first operational use in late 2012 when the first Iveco DV Lince 4×4 light armoured vehicles were deployed as part of the Italian contingent in Afghanistan. A high tier system, it is equipped with Selex ES Mini Colibri that features three viewing channels, an uncooled thermal camera, a TV camera with 2.4° – 46° zoom and an optional narrow field of view TV camera. A 4,000-metre range laser rangefinder and an optional digital compass allow it to become a targeting asset at short-medium distances.
The sensor suite, and more precisely the thermal imager, allowed soldiers to identify where the soil had been recently moved which gave them hints of possible explosive device emplacement. Moreover the recording system allowed them to acquire patterns of life information. Italy acquired 81 such turrets for the Lince and 40 more for the Orso, the Iveco DV vehicle selected for the Italian Army route clearance package. Eight more Hitrole Light have been acquired by Italy as part as a force protection programme and are being installed on sangars in Afghanistan, to improve FOBs protection.
At Russia Arms Expo 2013 the Hitrole Light has been exhibited mounted on a Tigre multipurpose vehicle; the RCWS was modified in order to be armed with weapons of Russian origin, namely the 7.62 mm PKT and the 12.7 mm NSVT machine guns. These automatic weapons being loaded from the right, the optronic pod has been moved to the left. Two turrets tailored for eastern European weapons were delivered to the customer, a one-month testing phase being planned for November 2013. Oto Melara maintains in its portfolio its Hitrole turret, a heavier system aimed at APCs, which allows ammunition reloading from under armour.
The appearance of Renault Trucks Defense in the turret arena results from the acquisition of Panhard, which thus brought the Panhard-Sagem co-developed turrets within the RTD portfolio, Sagem remaining the co-designer and optronics provider. So far the French Armée de Terre remains the only user of the first product launched on the market, the Wasp (Weapon under Armor for Self Protection), 100 of which are currently installed on VBLs and PVPs light armoured vehicles most of which are now back in France, following their withdrawal from Afghanistan. A light RCWS, the Wasp is designed to accept the AN F1 machine gun, but can also accept the MAG 58. Fully equipped cum machine gun, 200 rounds and optronic package the Wasp has a weighs about 60 kg. A naval version known as Sea Wasp has been also developed.
Leveraging experience acquired, the then Panhard-Sagem team developed a heavier RCWS for 12.7 mm machine guns. Known as the Hornet and unveiled at Eurosatory 2012 in mock-up form, the system can also be armed with a 40 mm automatic grenade launcher, the weight in combat order being estimated at 150 kg. This is without optional Galix grenade launchers and Level 2 to 4 ballistic protection. The Hornet has an elevation of –20°/+60° and its optronic package includes a Sagem thermal camera with a 9° field of view and a 12° field of view daylight colour camera. According to the latest information, the Hornet has remained at prototype status.
Over the last few years this Turkish vehicle company has developed a series of light turrets and RCWS. The company is active not only in turret development but is also deeply involved in optronics design, as it considers optronic units as major components of the fire control system regardless of the calibre and type of the weapon system.
The lighter system is the Basok, a stabilised RCWS weighing 85 kg without gun and ammunition, able to carry a 7.62 mm machine gun with 200 rounds. The Basok can be equipped with optronic suites of increasing complexity and cost, the most basic featuring white light projector on the left while the daylight camera is located under the machine gun. A day/night sighting system with uncooled sensor and CCD can be installed according to customer’s requirements, a laser rangefinder being also proposed as option. The Basok was introduced in mid-2013 and is now ready for production.
Present for some years in the company catalogue, the Keskin is a non stabilised weapon station capable to accept 7.62 and 12.7 mm machine guns as well as a 40 mm automatic grenade launcher. It features an optronic package with uncooled thermal sensor, day CCD and LRF. Delivered with Otokar vehicles for many years, it is in service with numerous customers. A version armed with a KPVT 14.5 mm machine gun is also available.
For customers looking for a Gucci-level product Otokar developed the Ucok weapon station, that can be armed with the same type of western weapons as the Keskin, but is fully stabilised. At 261 kg without weapon and ammunition, the Ucok features an independent sight elevation that allows both superelevation when using the AGL as well as non-threatening posture in PSOs, the weapon being raised at 70°. The optronic suite, located under the weapon, includes a dual field-of-view uncooled thermal imager, a CCD camera and a laser range finder. According to Otokar officials the company took a lot of care in the development of the ammunition feeding system of the 40 mm AGL, a weak point when using an Mk19, in order to avoid stoppages. The Ucok is also equipped with a full set of smoke grenade launchers covering the frontal arc. Otokar recently completed the qualification phase and the Ucok is now ready for production.
Turning to the Bozok 12.7 MKT, this is a one-man turret armed with light weapons, 7.62 or 12.7 mm machine guns. The current version is a new design of previous MKT turrets already delivered to export markets for many years, Otokar having developed this new product as it sees a concrete customer requirement for this configuration. The Bozok 12.7 MKT is non-stabilised and manually operated and features a day/night sighting system housed in a rectangular pod linked to the gun mount, laser rangefinder being proposed as option, the turret featuring a full digital FCS architecture. A rear-hinged hatch allows the gunner a direct view, one periscope per side providing situational awareness even with hatch closed, the gunner being protected by a Level 3 armour. The turret dimensions and the protection level bring its weight up to 770 kg without weapon and ammunition, a figure which can be used for comparing the manned solution with the unmanned weapon stations and turrets mentioned in these pages, the heavier weight providing however the advantage of reloading from under armour. The Bozok 12.7 MKT has been sold to a number of undisclosed countries. Two more different variants known as the Bozok 40AGL MKT and the Bozok 20 MKT have also been developed for an undisclosed programme.
The major player in defence electronics in Turkey, Aselsan developed some remotely controlled systems for ground vehicles and for naval applications. The Stabilized Advanced Remote weapon Platform, Sarp in short, is based on a “U” cradle that can host 7.62 or 12.7 mm machine guns or a 40 mm AGL. The optronic package is located under the gun and includes the typical uncooled thermal imager, CCD day camera and laser rangefinder. At around 160 kg without weapon and ammunition, the Sarp can be installed on light vehicles and ensures good firing capacity even in urban or mountainous terrain thanks to the 60° maximum elevation. Unveiled in 2011, it is now in mass production for an undisclosed customer.
Another Aselsan system is the stabilised Stamp, which can host the same weapons, but fully encased under a protective cover. This is due to the clear intention of proposing the Stamp for naval applications. A dual-axis stabilised system, the above deck assembly weighs some 225 kg without weapon and ammo, ammunition stowage being 200 rounds for the 12.7 mm machine gun. The optronic suite is housed in a pod on the right side of the turret, the shape of the pod as well as that of the weapon cover being designed to minimise radar cross-section, another feature induced by naval applications.
YSS Defense Systems
Turkish Yüksel Savunma Sistemleri A.Ş. has focused on homeland and border security projects and has developed the Roboguard. Designed for static applications the Roboguard is not stabilised, and has a traverse movement limited to 350°. To allow different types of reaction, the YSS RCWS is armed with two different weapons, an AK-47 rifle, that allows firing single warning shots towards a potential intruder, for example, and a PKMS machine gun for suppressive fire. Since, new weapons have also been integrated such as the MG-3 and MAG 7.62 mm machine guns. The elevation arc is of –20°/+55°, the optronic package installed under the weapon includes a thermal camera, a CCD camera with x12 zoom and a laser rangefinder with a 2.5 km range. An operator can control up to three surveillance and firing units via cable or, optionally, via wireless, pre-defined patterns being programmable. A motion detection and a target tracking system reduce the operators’ workload, target recognition and identification being favoured by a vision fusion based on the inputs from both day and thermal sensors. Overall the Roboguard carries 500 7.62 mm rounds, the weight of the system without weapons and ammunition being 85 kg
YSS Defense Systems is also producing the Yak, a stabilised turret that can be armed with the typical 7.62 and 12.7 mm machine guns and 40 mm AGL, carrying 300 rounds or 96 grenades. Here too the optronic package is located under the weapon, and includes day/night optics and laser rangefinder with motion detection, target tracking and multi-targeting system. A naval version known as D-Yak is also available.
This Serb defence company developed the M09 that was armed with the M87 12.7 mm machine gun (the Serbian version of the soviet NSVT chambered for the 12.7×108 mm round). The weapon is fully encased in a shield that provides some protection against ballistic threats and against sand, dust and rain.
The same applies to the optronic suite, located on the left, that includes a day CCD camera with x4 zoom, a 4.6° field-of-view thermal imager and a two kilometre laser rangefinder. The ammunition box is located on the right. Accepted in service by the Serbian Army, the M09 is currently in production for undisclosed export countries. In early 2012 Yugoimport carried out a major modification to the weapon, which is now available for the 12.7×99 mm rounds used in Western heavy MGs. The M09 is thus now provided also in that configuration, keeping the same ammunition feed and the same links used in the former model.
The Romanian manufacturer developed its RCWS-RO in the late 2000, and has sold it to Egypt that installed it on board its Sherpa Light 4×4 scout vehicles. Weighing in at 165 kg without gun and ammo, it features a day CCD camera with zoom providing a horizontal viewing angle of 1.6° to 42.2° and a two-lens thermal camera with uncooled sensor. One- or two-axis is provided as option as well as a 5 or 10 km range laser rangefinder and electronic image stabilisation. Ballistic protection can also be installed at customer’s request. The RCWS-RO can be armed with 5.56, 7.62 or 12.7 mm machine guns both of western or eastern origin.
At DSEI 2013 the Romanian company unveiled its new RCWS-RO-M also known as “Anubis”, a gyro-stabilised platform for 7.62 or 12.7 mm machine guns lighter than its predecessor, which allows to save 30 kg, equipped with a day/night sensor suite including a 1.7° to 57° field of view CCD camera and an uncooled two-lens (4° and 12° horizontal) or 4° to 24° zoom-lens thermal imager. The thermal camera provides a 6 km vehicle detection range and 3 km individual detection range at night (with recognition ranges of, respectively, 2 and 1 km). A 5 km-range laser rangefinder completes the suite, the Anubis being provided with optional target auto-tracking, image stabilisation and rounds counter. Pro-Optica was going to carry out a testing campaign for an undisclosed potential customer in October 2013. The RCWS-RO remains in production though.
In 2008 this Slovak company specialised in gyro-stabilised pan-tilt heads for multiple uses unveiled its first turret known as the ZSRD 07. It subsequently was upgraded, the current model being still based on a U-type head which carries the sensor package in the lower half and the weapon, a PKT 7.62 mm machine gun, in the upper half. Although the EVPU product is a remotely controlled weapon station, it features a cover that provides good protection against sand, dust and rain, and some ballistic protection, the same applying to the optronic pod that features a cover that is lifted by an actuator located in the centre of the pod when the ZSRD 07 is in use.
The pod houses an uncooled DRP-893 8°x16° field of view thermal camera with a x2 digital zoom, a 48°x36° FoV Britannia surveillance camera with a with 1 x18 optical and x12 digital zooms, and an HK75 aiming camera with 3.7°x2.8° FoV. A laser rangefinder can be added as option. On each vertical element of the U-structure three smoke grenade launchers are installed. The ammunition box, containing 250 or 450 rounds, is located on the right and rotates in elevation with the weapon, the elevation arc being –15°/+70°.
In 2012 a new design was introduced. Known as the ZSRD 08, it is able to carry a 12.7 mm machine gun or a 30 mm automatic grenade launcher. It maintains the same thermal camera and aiming TV camera of the 07, the surveillance sensor being replaced by a RYS TV camera with a FoV from 56.4°x43.4° to 1.7°x1.3°, with continuous zoom. A laser rangefinder is integrated in the sensor pod, its range being 5 km although the ZSRD 08 is being considered accurate up to 2 km. The system architecture remains very similar to that of the lighter RCWS, the weight of the pan-tilt head being at 200 kg.
When Less Than Lethal Is Required
With its national army often involved in operations involving civilian crowd the fact that Rafael of Israel developed a Non-Lethal version of its Samson remote weapon station does not come as a surprise. The system is fully interchangeable with the Samson Mini, allowing a military unit to shift from a lethal to a non-lethal posture in less than two hours. On the right side we find the usual optronic sensor pod; however a fourth window is added for the Xenon-based dazzler with a range of 100 metres.
On top of the weapon station we find the 40 mm grenade launcher with 10 ready-to-fire rounds in its magazine, ranging from rubber rounds to other non-lethal grenades. On the right is the sound blaster acoustic device, which operates both on low and high frequencies and has a range of about 1,000 metres. The lower part of the Samson Non-Lethal hosts the smoke/tear gas grenade launcher with a range between 125 and 800 metres, with six ready to fire grenades. Over the latter and under the 40 mm grenade launcher module a .22” sharpshooter rifle can be installed, providing optional lethal response with a range of 50 metres. The elevation range goes from –20° to +60°, with a weight of less than 200 kg.
Leveraging the M153 mount Kongsberg developed a version of the Protector equipped with less-than-lethal effectors to allow escalation of force (EoF) in asymmetric warfare operations.
The EoF version maintains the optronic sensor suite as well as a lethal effector, without which less-than-lethal effectors lose their credibility, but adds a series or other effectors. Among those we find a green veiling laser and a powerful white light, a long-range acoustic device to warn the crowd or individuals in their native language via linguists on board the vehicle or recorded messages, and 66 or 40 mm flash bang launchers. The Protector EoF has a weight of 198 kg including non-lethal effectors and add-on armour, and without weapon and ammunition. Some of those effectors have already been used in theatre by US Army units.
Dual: Between Light and Medium
To bridge the gap between light and medium systems, Kongsberg developed the Protector Dual Remote Weapon Station (DRWS) that is based on the M153 with the addition of an add-on coaxial weapon in the form of a 5.56 or 7.62 mm machine gun placed on the right side. The main weapon is located in the usual central position, over the optronic package, and is either a 12.7 mm machine gun or a 40 mm automatic grenade launcher. Four smoke grenade launchers can be installed on the lower front side. The DRWS has been selected for the Canadian Tactical Armoured Vehicle Programme, and according to Kongsberg officials this configuration is becoming a bestseller in many countries.
Elbit Systems developed a Dual Remote Weapon Station (DRWS) starting from its 12.7 mm RCWS, the new system maintaining most of the components of the earlier weapon station. The station can carry on the main cradle a 12.7 mm machine gun or 40 mm AGL, while on the secondary one a 7.62 mm machine gun can be installed. The range being the same, also the optronic package remains that of the single-weapon system, and here too superelevation allows decoupling optronic sensors and weapons. According to company sources Elbit Systems considers its light RCWS portfolio complete and we should not expect new systems in the coming years.
When talking of dual RCWSs, the one developed by Rafael is a product on its own because it can also accept medium-calibre weapons, de facto becoming a trait d’union between light and medium systems. Usually the main weapon is a 12.7 or 14.5 mm machine gun or a 40 mm AGL, while the secondary weapon is a 5.56 or 7.62 mm MG.
Rafael’s Dual goes beyond that, as it can optionally accept 25-30 mm cannon while the secondary weapon can go up to a 40 mm AGL. Another key feature of the latest version of the Dual, which features a completely new structure, is its ability to be reloaded under armour. A wholly new feature is the possibility it offers to substitute one of the two weapons and replace it with a new retractable twin antitank missile launcher designed for the Spike in its MR, LR and ER versions. To cope with the range afforded by 25-30 mm cannon and antitank missiles that can be installed, cooled thermal imaging sensors were integrated in the Dual. A similar sensor has been installed on the Dual acquired by an undisclosed customer that chose a version with a 14.5 mm machine gun and two missiles on the left side. In June 2013 a Samson Dual was tested by the US Marine Corps in a 40 mm AGL plus 12.7 mm machine gun configuration.
The dual-weapon R-600 from EOS can host machine guns up to 12.7 mm as well as a 40 mm AGL. With a maximum weight (loaded) of 377 kg, it features the same optronic package as the single-weapon R-200 and R-400, and can be supplied with a Level 2 ballistic protection kit. The R-600 is compatible with 25 and 30 mm low-recoil guns. Currently the system is in production in the US by Northrop Grumman for Singapore, the order being for over 200 RCWS to be installed on the Terrex 8×8 vehicle.
The R-600 is being delivered in two configurations, one with 40 mm AGL and 7.62 mm MG, while in the second features a single 12.7 mm machine gun. In late October 2013 EOS announced the completion of a new maintenance and support facility in Singapore, to be manned by personnel from Singapore Technologies Kinetics and by EOS technicians. A new order was recently filed, deliveries being planned for late 2013 and 2014; the new order brings the total number of R-600 produced to over 300.
Dynamit Nobel Defence
In 2013 Dynamit Nobel Defence (DND) unveiled a new station known as the Dual Fewas that includes a number of original features. Its development heavily relies on the Fewas 120, and was triggered by the requirements of numerous users, mostly Special Forces, that wanted a safe reload capacity as well as a weapon suite capable of opening a breach in typical Afghan walls. The Dual Fewas is the first station offering different armaments, light, medium or heavy machine gun or even AGL, and the possibility of reloading of both weapons under armour. This unique feature contributes to the bare weight of 280 kg. Currently the new Dynamit Nobel Defence system can accept the Minimi in 5.56 or 7.62 mm, the MAG 58 and the MG3 in 7.62 mm, the M2 in 12.7 mm, and the Mk19 and H&K 40 mm automatic grenade launchers. A low ammunition sensor stops the firing in order to allow under-armour reload; an elevator allows to lower the ammunition box to allow the crew to link the new belt to the old one before raising it back into position – the procedure being the same for both weapons. Tests should start soon with the Rheinmetall RMG 12.7 electrically driven machine gun that allows not only considerable weight savings but also new capabilities such as the “sniper mode” firing.
The Dual Fewas was also designed for chain guns of higher calibres. The operator can overrun the low ammo stopping in case of emergency. The automatic weapon on the left side can be replaced by a dual launcher armed with a Dynamit RWG 90; this is located under a protective cover, which opens for load/unload/reload operations. The sensor pod is armoured and is located on the right of the turret, containing the typical CCD camera, thermal imager and laser rangefinder package. All LRUs are located under armour, the Dual Fewas being born to be connected to the platform via canbus or ethernet to be interfaced with any BMS or sensor. The Fewas Dual maintains the Fewas 120 elevation range of -20° to +60°, with the ability to decouple the sight from the automatic weapon, commonality being high to rein costs.
The Dual is ready for production and Dynamit Nobel Defence is expecting the first contracts. The prime configuration considered is that with the RMG 12.7 and two RGW 90, however a pending customer asked for a weapon integrating the Minimi 7.62 and the M2 12.7 mm machine guns, while the German Army shows interest in the combination of the RMG 12.7 mm and the H&K 40 mm AGL. For special forces the M2 and RGW 90 solution is currently being proposed.
In a category of its own, the BattleGuard draws on Raytheon’s optronic panoramic pod used, inter alia, by the Abrams and the Bradley. It thus becomes the main module of the station which is obtained by adding the BattleGuard mount between the vehicle and the pod.
It is proposed as a low-cost low-impact solution to provide US Army tanks and fighting vehicles with an RCWS based on the commander’s independent viewer. Fully modular, up to two weapons can be mounted on the BattleGuard mount, from machine guns to grenade launchers to low recoil cannon, Raytheon missiles and less-than-lethal weapons being also an option. Among the numerous weapons foreseen are the M249, M240, M2, Mk47, Mk19, M134, M230LF, TOW, Javelin, Griffin and Stinger.
Saab’s Trackfire is a modular unit that can be configured either as a single or a dual weapon system – a modularity that not only allows a degree of flexibility in the choice of western ordnance but also Eastern Europe weapons. Primary weapons range from the typical M2 12.7 mm heavy machine gun, to the H&K 40 mm automatic grenade launcher, to the ATK LW25 dual feed Ghain Gun using 25 x 59 mm ammunition. However, a “mirror” version of the Trackfire is available for the Russian 12.7x108mm NSV, which is fed from the right rather than from left. The latter can be armed with a 7.62x54R PKM as coaxial machine gun, the standard version using a MAG58 in 7.62×51 mm or an M249 in 5.56mm.
Depending on configuration the bare weight of the Trackfire is of about 250 kg, typical ammunition load for the M2 12.7 mm being 400 rounds. The director unit is permanently stabilised through the use of a Saab gyroscope while the line of sight is fully independently stabilised. The sensor module is completely decoupled from the weapon cradle, and hence isolated from weapon shock/recoil effects. Both weapons are slaved to the stabilised line of sight in a coincidence capture relationship in elevation, giving the ability to track continuously lased targets, the ballistic solution being automatically adjusted in real time by the fire control computer.
The architecture of the Trackfire leverages experience acquired by Saab in the CV90 fire control system. Both the weapons and the sensor module can therefore move in elevation in the –25°/+60° arc while the sensor module can also be moved in azimuth on a ± 15° arc. A video tracker module is also part of the FCS, the Trackfire being capable of firing on the move.
So far Saab received a limited contract from ATK in late 2011 for integrating the LW25 Chain Gun (the US Government being the end user), and another one year later from the Finnish Navy for 12 Trackfire plus options. The Saab RCWS is to be installed on the new Watercat M18 AMC multipurpose high-speed landing crafts planned for delivery in the 2014-2016 timeframe. The Finnish Navy chose the version equipped with a 12.7 NSV and a 7.62 PKM machine guns, with the main being replaceable with a 40 mm grenade launcher. The Trackfire with the ATK 25 mm solution was also exhibited at DSEI 2013 mounted on the Patria New Vehicle Concept, with non-lethal weapons fitted below the coaxial machine gun.
Ooomph for Infantry Fighting Vehicle
Medium calibre overhead weapon stations allow to further reduce weights while keeping the same calibre and ammunition load, thanks to the lack of armour around the cannon. This provides good firepower for those vehicles unable to withstand the weight of an unmanned or manned turret, while exposing the system to weather and enemy threats.
Launched in mid-2010 by the South African branch of the company, the Tactical Remote Turret (TRT) has been declined in several models, with different weapons installed from 20 to 30 mm calibre.
The first was the TRT-B25, armed with ATK’s M242 Bushmaster 25 mm dual-feed cannon and M240 7.62 coaxial machine gun. The optronic package, installed under the gun, hosts the typical day/night sight and laser rangefinder suite suited to the cannon range, the choice being defined by customer’s preferences. The TRT ensures a good protection of the main weapon and of the coaxial machine gun located on top on the right. In the back the two feeding chutes are not fully protected against sand and dust. All covers also provide ballistic protection, standard being Level 1, increasable to Level 2 at customer’s wish. With the two 130-round belts and 1,000 rounds for the machine gun, the overall weight of the TRT-25 is 900 kg. Fully stabilised, the TRT features electro-mechanical drives, the elevation arc being –10°/+65° elevation, optimal for urban areas.
The MMI, common to all versions, is a game-boy type controller that features an auto-tracker with manual lock-on and a 10.4” LCD touch-screen display mounted in the vehicle, the TRT being controlled by a single operator. The standard cradle can take the ATK M230 low recoil gun using 30×113 mm ammunition, while for the bigger Mk44 Bushmaster, which fires 30×173 mm ammunition, a larger cradle is required, turning the model into the TRT-N30, N standing for Nato.
Eyeing the African and Middle East market, BAE Systems unveiled the TRT-R30 (R for Russian) in Fall 2012 armed with the 30mm 2A42 and 7.62 PKT co-axial machine gun. A further version is the TRT-R30M(X) also carrying two Konkurs missiles. As those are located one on each side of the main gun in a lower position, the optronic pod is moved to the right of the turret. With all the options the TRT can reach a weight of 1,800 kg.
The TRT has not yet found a launch customer, but BAE Systems is carrying out an intensive demonstration programme, the turret having been tested in the United Arab Emirates in March 2013 while the company is planning firings in Europe in 2014 with the TRT-R30 model.
BAE Systems catalogue features another medium-calibre turret, this time coming from northern Europe; the Lemur was developed by Bofors, which is now part of the Swedish branch of the company. The Lemur comes as a fully modular system, which is centred on the stabilised cradle to which add-on modules are fitted. The company proposed the ATK M242 dual-feed cannon for the 25 mm calibre and the M230LF chain gun, also from ATK, for the 30 mm calibre. A coaxial machine gun in 7.62 or 5.56 mm calibre can be installed on the right of the cannon. The main gun has at least 125 rounds ready to fire, the total weight of the system in combat order being of about 450 kg for the M242 and 350 kg for the M230LF configurations.
Weight can however change depending on the choice of the customer in terms of optronic sensors and optional add-on such as fire control of indirect fire if a 40 mm automatic grenade launcher is used, hunter-killer capacity adding an independent periscope, smoke grenade launchers for self-defence, etc. Numerous options are available also in the fire control system such as video tracker, automatic surveillance mode, digital image processing, integration in BMS and navigation systems, and embedded simulation. A new 350kg version of the 30mm Lemur will include amongst others an independent line of sight.
The Turkish vehicle manufacturer has had a one-man turret for some time in its catalogue – the Sharpshooter – originally developed in the ‘80s by FMC, now BAE Systems Land and Armaments, FNSS itself being a joint venture between Nurol Holdings and BAE Systems. This 1.7-tonne turret is armed with an ATK M242 25 mm dual-feed automatic cannon located on the right of the centreline, with a coaxial MAG58 or M240 7.62 mm machine gun on the left, the latter with 600 ready rounds and over 1,600 stowed rounds.
Eight smoke grenade launchers are located on the sides and behind the turret, covering the frontal arc, the gunner being protected against 14.5 mm AP rounds. The gunner has three periscopes for frontal and side vision, the sight with day/night capability being a customer choice. The fully stabilised (electric drives) turret is in use in Malaysia on some 60 tracked ACV-300s and has been installed on one of the prototypes of the AV8 8×8 IFV developed from the FNSS Pars 8×8 for the Malaysian Army.
In 2011 FNSS unveiled a fully stabilised remote controlled turret known as the Claw. This is armed with a Rheinmetall KBA 25 mm dual-fed cannon located on the turret centreline with 210 ready rounds, and an MG3 or M240 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun on the right with 600 ready rounds. Two series of four 76 mm smoke grenade launchers are mounted on the rear, covering the front sector. On the left of the gun, which is all protected by the turret structure, is the stabilised independent day/night sight with ±7° azimuth arc and –10°/+50° elevation arc, the same elevation arc as the main gun. An independent commander’s sight can be installed, options also including add-on armour to raise protection level from 2 to 3, as well as antitank missile launchers. The gun installed on the prototype is just an example of possible applications, the Claw also being able to accept 30 mm cannon. Fully loaded the Claw has a weight of 1,700 kg, its silhouette being particularly reduced thanks to the limited height of 590 mm.
Unveiled as a functional mock-up in mid-2011, the Otokar Mizrak unmanned turret has been shown in real two years later installed on the prototype of the company’s Tulpar armoured infantry fighting vehicle. Conceptually nothing had changed, but the whole turret was re-designed in detail.
System combat weight is 2,671 kg without ammunition, the Mizrak remaining an option for tracked IFVs as well as for 8×8 vehicles such as Otokar Arma. The Otokar turret can be equipped with different weapon systems from 25 to 40 mm. Typically the Tulpar turret is armed with a 30 mm dual-feed ATK Mk44 Bushmaster II cannon, having been fire tested and qualified with that weapon. Two 30 mm belts each with 104 rounds of different types feed the gun via the electromechanical feeding system. Air-burst munitions with programmable fuse can be used.
A coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun is located on the right of the main gun, with 500 rounds. The dual axis stabilized gunner sight is located on the left and includes a high performance cooled thermal camera, CCD camera and laser range finder. Its azimuth arc is of ± 10° while its elevation arc is –10°/+60°, the same of the weapon. The commander’s panoramic sight is identical to the gunner’s, except for its 360° azimuth capability. It is located on the turret roof, behind the gunners sight. The open-architecture vetronics allows an easy integration of add-on subsystems, such as laser warning receiver, soft/hard kill, C3I, etc. Anti-tank guided missiles can also be added, the most obvious being the national solution in the form of Rocketsan L-Umtas. All mechanical, electronic hardware, software and optronics design activities have been carried out in-house. The basic design has a Level 2 protection, which is considered sufficient for an unmanned turret. However Otokar has a few variants in the design phase, with different cannons and some of them with manned solutions; in that case increasing protection up to Level 5 with an add-on armour kit might become a sound solution. Final prototypes started to be tested in early 2012, final field tests having been finished by early 2013, and the Mizrak 30 is now ready for serial production.
At IDEF 2013 Otokar unveiled a second medium calibre turret, the Bozok 25 MTK. This new product being one-man basketed turret armed with an ATK M242 low recoil cannon is fully stabilised and is located on the right of the turret, the dual feed mechanism containing two belts of 105 ammunition each. A coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun is located to the right of the gun and is provided with 500 ready rounds. On the left we find the day/night sight that includes a CCD day camera, a cooled thermal imager, a laser rangefinder and an automatic target tracker, all optronics being developed in-house. The gunner’s digital periscopic sight is of the head mirror type and is mechanically linked to the stabilized main gun. Located on the left of the turret, it features a cooled thermal imager, CCD day camera and a laser rangefinder, all the systems having been developed in-house by Otokar. A redundant hard-optic back-up sight is also integrated in case of a power failure. Full 360° situational awareness is provided by further four periscopes.
A rear-hinged hatch on the top of the turret allow the gunner to have a direct view of the surroundings. When inside the turret the gunner enjoys a Level 3 all round protection provided by the turret steel structure and the bolt-on armour. Without ammunition the Bozok 25 weighs 1,570 kg and is thus installable on 6×6 vehicles. Completed just before IDEF, in Spring 2013, the Bozok 25 completed firing trials and is now ready for production. A cheaper product compared to the Mizrak, Otokar estimates that this product might find numerous customers.
A true RCWS, the original Samson MkI by Israeli Rafael featured the main weapon, fully stabilised, in the centre, with the optronic package on the right in an armoured pod and the antitank missile pod on the left. The customer could chose among three options for the cannon, the 25 mm ATK M242, the 30 mm ATK Mk44 and the 30 mm 2A42 of Russian origin, the missiles normally used being the Spike LR/ER produced by Rafael itself, although other ATGMs can be integrated. A 7.62 mm machine gun or 40 mm automatic grenade launcher can be installed as secondary armament, while up to eight smoke grenade launchers are available as optional. While the gunner has at his disposal an optronic day/night sight the commander can carry out surveillance independently thanks to a panoramic sight installed on a mast. The RCWS is equipped with an automatic target tracking system capable to engage fast moving targets, and can be interfaced with any C2/C4I system. A peculiarity of the Rafael turret is that it can be retracted to reduce the vehicle silhouette when not in use, and rose during operations. The Samson MkI has been acquired by the Czech Army that installed it on over 100 Pandur 8x8s, some of which have been deployed in Afghanistan.
Leveraging experience garnered with the MkI, Rafael developed the Samson MkII. Strictly, this is no longer an RCWS as the weapon is fully encased in a low profile turret. At basic protection level, Stanag Level 1, the MkII weighs about 1,500 kg, about 100 kg less than the MkI, while its maximum elevation is increased from +60° to +70°, a useful feature when operating in urban or mountainous terrain.
Another key feature of the MkII is the fact that the crew can reload the ammunition from under cover; ammo is located in a circular magazine on two rows inside the turret. A sitting position for the vehicle commander is available to allow him to have a direct view of the terrain keeping the head out of the turret through a dedicated hatch. The two missiles are located on the left but here they are installed side by side in a newly developed retractable launcher that can host the MR, LR and ER versions of the Spike. The MkII can use the same weapons as the MkI and maintains the same hunter-killer capability. Turret protection can be increased to Level 4 with add-on armour. Rafael has produced two prototypes of the Samson MkII. The test phase has been concluded in Summer 2013 and the new unmanned turret is now ready for production.
Known now as UT30, Elbit Systems’ unmanned medium calibre weapon station is equipped with either a 30 mm or a 25 mm cannon (air-burst munitions also being possible). The system layout sees the cannon in central position, with the coaxial machine gun on its left, together with the optronic package. Cannon and sight dual-axis stabilisation ensures fire-on-the move capability, the optronic package being defined according to customer’s requirement, including automatic target tracking. The UT30 is designed to adopt a modular Level 2 to 4 protection for weapon and sights, smoke grenade launchers and warning sensors also being available as option. Two single-missile Spike launchers can be installed on the right of the weapon.
While the Portuguese Navy decided to equip its Steyr Pandur II with a 25 mm cannon, most customers, such as Belgium and Slovenia, opted for the 30 mm. This calibre has also been selected by Brazil, whose Guarani fighting vehicles will be equipped with that Elbit turret, but produced locally by AEL Sistemas S.A., an Elbit Systems subsidiary which has already been contracted.
A major player in the medium calibre turret field is CMI Defence from Belgium. The latter owe to the company’s experience with the two-man CT-CV and LCTS90 heavy calibre turrets, featuring fully stabilised weapon and sights, FCS, digital electronic architecture, independent stabilised commander’s periscopes, and ballistic protection up to Level 5. Standard maximum elevation is +60° to cope with urban and mountainous environments. CMI Defence integrates numerous types of weapons at customer’s choice, the most common being ATK M242 Bushmaster and Rheinmetall Switzerland KBA in 25 mm, ATK Mk44 and Rheinmetall Mk30-2 in 30 mm, ATK Bushmaster III and Rheinmetall Switzerland KD in 35 mm, ATK Bushmaster IV, Bofors L70 and CTAI 40 cased telescoped system in 40 mm. They can also be equipped with antitank missiles.
For smaller vehicles CMI Defence developed a modular remotely controlled turret, the CPWS (Cockerill Protected Weapon Station) family, that can be fitted with Nexter M261 and Rheinmetall KAA cannon in 20 mm calibre, ATK M242 Bushmaster and Rheinmetall Switzerland KBA in 25 mm calibre, ATK M230, ATK M230LF, 2A42 and 2A72 in 30 mm calibre. A coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun is located on the left of the main gun that has a maximum elevation of +45° and depression of –10°. The fully enclosed turret features a dual-mode stabilised sighting system that allows full 360° view in observation mode without rotating the turret (zeroed to the cannon when used in sighting mode and linked to the ballistic computer). CMI Defence will not disclose the weight of its turrets, but CPWS is suited for vehicles with minimum gross weight of seven tonnes.
In service on Italian Dardo tracked and Freccia wheeled AIFVs with a 25 mm cannon, and on Polish Rosomaks with a 30 mm barrel, the Oto Melara Hitfist two-man turret is constantly evolving thanks to lessons learned downrange. The third tranche of Freccias currently under contract will be equipped with the latest Hitfist iteration that will feature more space inside while keeping the same external surface, thanks to structure optimisation. The turret will also have wider hatches, to allow more comfort to crew members wearing body armour, while all turrets will be fitted with Selex ES Janus FF (Full Format) periscopic sight, a request coming straight from the field where only part of the vehicles were equipped with the original Janus. A satcoms will also be added.
From this turret Oto Melara derived its Hitfist OWS, the acronym being misleading as in fact it is not a weapon station, but an unmanned turret (although the distinction is now matter for conjecture). The turret has been successfully tested in Russia on board a Freccia. The second prototype has been installed on the Italian Joint Landing Force amphibious VBA. The configuration is now frozen, including the hatch for the commander and the access to the turret from inside, and the product is mature and ready for production. The Hitfist OWS is marketed in many countries, the solutions adopted making it easy to retrofit it to existing vehicles, though doctrinal problems remain in some countries as far as unmanned medium calibre turrets are concerned.
To overcome that problem, reducing weight while renouncing to the extra-space inside, Oto Melara is working on a hybrid concept, that would allow adding the turning basket to the OWS, a choice that can also be made as retrofit on existing OWS turrets. This would allow to keep the two-man crew oriented with the gun while ensuring them the vehicle protection.
Unveiled in 2010, Nexter’s ARX20 is a remotely controlled turret designed around the company’s 20mm M621. Fully gyrostabilised, the ARX20 carries 100 ready-to-use rounds for a total combat weight of 270 kg. The optronic package is located on the right of the gun and includes an uncooled thermal camera, a day camera and a laser rangefinder. Optionally a cooled thermal camera can be provided. A 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun can be added slightly off centre to the right on the roof. Smoke grenade launchers can also be added, while the ammunition stowage can be increased up to 200 rounds. The launch customer is believed to be Saudi Arabia, which is said to be having 40 of its armoured Aravis 4x4s (also from Nexter) equipped with that turret, although the French company never confirmed that information.
Shifting to a much larger turret, Nexter introduced the concept demonstrator of its T40 turret at Eurosatory 2012. The T40 was developed with the help of Nexter’s own LIVe (Laboratoire d’Integration Vétronique, or vetronics integration laboratory) and virtual 3D laboratory, that allow to test human-machine interfaces prior to prototype manufacturing. The T-40 is developed as a two-man turret according to the French Army requirements for the EBRC reconnaissance vehicle, with the commander on the left and the gunner on the right, but its electronic architecture easily allows it to be morphed into a remotely operated turret (based on a digital modular vetronic system working on an Ethernet architecture).
The 40 mm CTAI remains the main weapon and gives numerous advantages such as low turret intrusion, smooth loading cycle, and ability to shoot in single- shot mode or at any rate up to 50 rpm (its AP rounds being able of perforating 140 mm RHA). Being primarily developed for the EBRC, which might operate in urban or mountainous terrains, the main gun elevation is of 45° (but +60° would be possible). The turret features an all-round Level 4 protection (Level 5 in option), while its 360° observation capability is afforded by a layer of systems optimised for distances of 0 to 4,000 metres. As for the weapon systems installed, these also follow a layered concept ensuring lethality at different ranges as well as less-than-lethality at shorter ranges.
Starting from sensors, the longer ranges are provided by the gunner day/night sight ensuring positive identification at 3,500 – 4,000 metres, while the commander panoramic periscope ensures hemispherical coverage providing similar performances. In terms of effectors these sensors provide sighting and hunter-killer capacity both for the two medium-range MMP antitank missiles and the 40 mm gun. The missiles are being developed by MBDA (availability around 2017) and the launcher would be fitted to the left of the turret. Observation up to 600 metres is provided by the day/night sight of the 7.62 mm RCWS mounted atop the T40, following the turret-on-turret concept. Between 300 and 50 metres the T40 is provided with episcopes for direct view and with a 360° situational awareness system made of three elements each containing three Low Light CCD cameras covering 40° each, thus providing full day and night coverage.
The T40 is equipped with laser and missile warning receivers located at the four corners of the turret, and with a shotgun detection system. To defend the vehicle against laser guided missiles four Galix launchers on each side of the 40 mm gun are available. Two more Galix launchers provide lethal self-defence capacity on the frontal arc, that on the rear being provided by the 7.62 mm RCWS which elevation reaches over 80°. To the right of the turret are seven 56 mm grenade launchers capable of firing salvos of less-than-lethal tear gas/flash-bang pyrotechnics to ranges of 200, 100 and 50 metres.
As anticipated, with the exception of the main gun and the gunner sight, most of the other elements are installed in a modular way and can thus easily be removed or installed according to the prevailing situation. The RCWS can for example be replaced by a pintle-mounted machine gun.
As said earlier this turret is first intended for the EBRC; however Nexter is looking at other opportunities.
In the current Level 4 protection configuration the T40 weighs 4.2 tonnes, but its structure can accept a maximum weight of seven. Looking down the road, the aforementioned modularity will allow Nexter to easily integrate any type of sensor and subsystem that might be developed in the future, enabling the T40 and the vehicles on which it will be installed to remain abreast with enemy development.
With the experience acquired with the FLW100/200, KMW started considering the Rh202 20 mm cannon chambered for 20 x 139 mm rounds (and already in use with the Bundeswehr) in late 2011 as the possible weapon for a beefed-up version of its FLW200. The aim was to provide an overhead weapon station with a more powerful weapon, to be installed on vehicles such as the Boxer or the Fuchs.
Largely derived from the FLW200, the new system was named FLW200Plus; as many Fuchs and Boxers were already equipped with the FLW200, KMW paid attention not to modify the mechanical and electrical interfaces in order to allow the installation of the FLW200Plus with minimal work. The same applied to the operators’ console inside the vehicle, which remains the same in terms of hardware. The new mount has an over-roof weight of 475 kg including the weapon and 100 rounds, the Rh202 gun having a two-feed system that allow to keep 100 rounds of one type and 30 rounds of a different type ready to fire.
The elevation arc stretches from –15° up to +50°. The standard optronic package includes a day CCD camera with x10 optical zoom and a dual-field-of-view cooled 640×480 thermal imager providing identification at over 2000 metres. The FLW200Plus is currently in the final qualification phase.
In the medium calibre domain KMW also developed the turret for the Puma. This is tailored to Bundeswehr requirements and can hardly be considered a product for other markets. The intention of developing a new uninhabited medium calibre turret became clear in 2010 when the Munich-based company exhibited a Boxer with a prototype uninhabited turret. Development work was carried out under wraps and at AUSA 2013 KMW unveiled the IWS35, for Independent Weapon Station 35. This maintains some features of the Puma turret, the main being the optical day panoramic periscope that provides a much better view compared to a TV solution; this has a considerable impact on the turret architecture as the periscope must be located in the centre of the turret , the weapon thus being on the right. The prototype shown was armed with an ATK Bushmaster III 35 mm cannon, which makes the IWS35 the first 35 mm unmanned turret, the secondary weapon being the ATK 12.7 mm chain gun located on the right of the main gun. A single servomotor ensures the elevation of both weapons; as the main gun has a maximum elevation of 35° and the potential customers feed back clearly indicated the need for a greater elevation for the secondary one, KMW coupled the two weapons with a gearbox. At maximum depression, -10°, the two weapons are aligned, and then when increasing the elevation the 12.7 mm is raised at a quicker angular speed, reaching a maximum of 65°.
The two weapons are fully stabilised, and when choosing the weapon to be used the fire control system automatically considers it in the ballistic equation ensuring it is set at the right elevation. Stabilisation is provided by Moog and ensures a 45°/s laying angular speed and a 100m/s2 acceleration. To avoid problems with links KMW opted for a linkless solution, in the form of a Meggitt automatic loader that elevates with the gun and contains 65 rounds of the principal ammo type and 11 rounds of the secondary one. The current configuration does not allow reloading from under armour; however a solution has already been identified, should a customer require that feature.
The number of rounds was decided considering the much greater lethal effect of a 35 mm versus a 30 mm ammunition. ATK 12.7 mm also features a double feed system, the total number of ammunition being 250. Without ammunition the turret, which has a Level 2 basic protection, weighs about three tonnes, increasing to 3.5 tonnes when loaded with 35 and 12.7 rounds. The high content of US subsystems, weapons, stabilisation and loader, as well as the fact that the unveiling, without fanfare, took place at the Washington exhibition, clearly shows the interest of KMW for this market. The IWS35 can thus be considered as a possible candidate for some American programmes such as the Army Ground Combat Vehicle and the US Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicle. This being said, the IWS35 can be equipped with different cannon, such as those from Rheinmetall or the CTAI 40 mm telescopic ammunition gun selected by Britain and France for their next combat and reconnaissance vehicles. The IWS35 already has been test fired in Germany and more integration work will be carried out in 2014.
The Lance modular turret was developed by Rheinmetall in the mid-2000s and has now become a mature system, with the four turrets on order by GDELS now on their way to the Tercio de Armada, installed on Piranha III 8x8s adopted by Spanish amphibious troops. A Lance turret was tested in Canada and integrated onboard a Piranha 5 as part of the Close Combat Vehicle testing phase.
At Eurosatory 2010 the Lance was exhibited on a Boxer, transforming the latter into an infantry fighting vehicle. The modular architecture of the Boxer could be better appreciated at IDEX 2013, where Rheinmetall exhibited the module on its own, which can be installed in around 30 minutes using a crane.
Currently the Lance is offered armed with the Rheinmetall Mk 30-2 with air-burst capability, although other options include the ATK Mk 44 Bushmaster II and III (respectively 30 and 35 mm) and the CTAI 40 mm, the latter being used in the British Scout Vehicle programme whose turret chassis is a derivative of the Lance. The coaxial machine gun, located on the right of the main gun, can be chosen amongst three options, H&K MG4 in 5.56-mm, Rheinmetall MG3 and FNH Mag 58 in 7.62 mm, and the newly developed Rheinmetall electric driven RMG 7.62. A Seoss-Sector stabilised sight installed on the left provides the gunner with day/night shooting capacity, while a Seoss-Peri or –Mout can be installed on the rear of the turret to give the commander full hunter-killer capacity, the latter system having a 70° elevation for better use in urban canyons. Protection is also modular, the standard being Level 4, although this
can be altered. Sniper location, 360° situational awareness, IFF and turret-on-turret are part of the options that can easily be added thanks to the Lance vetronics modular architecture.
Rheinmetall currently is working on the integration of the Spike antitank missile and of its new Wotan 30 mm gun in the Lance, this electric driven gun allowing an adjustable rate of fire between one and 200 rpm. At time of writing the second prototype featuring many improvements was being readied for firing tests.
While current Lance versions were developed as two-man turret, the turret armed with the Wotan will have a remotely controlled configuration, an option that was included right from the outset by Rheinmetall, with a commonality estimated at 75%. A one- or two-man control station will be installed inside the vehicle, all remaining other electronics being relocated in the turret. The Lance-RC needs a new slip-ring as the amount of information flowing from the turret to the vehicle and vice-versa is much higher than in the traditional version. The Lance-RC will retain the under-cover reloading feature. Weight should decrease to a minimum of two tonnes (2.7 tonnes with higher protection levels). The Lance-RC is now awaiting a launch customer.
With ink now set on two contracts, one for the Malaysian AV8 8×8 armoured vehicle built by DefTech and derived from the Turkish Pars 8×8 and the other for the South African Patria AMV-based Badger, the Denel LCT 30, is now well into production. In both cases the turret is armed with Denel LS GI-30 CamGun, an externally powered cannon featuring a linkless dual feed system and capable to fire in “sniper mode”, that is in single shot mode with bolt closed for maximum accuracy.
The main gun has 60 ready-to-fire rounds while the coaxial 7.62 machine gun has 600. A two-man turret, it can be equipped with either an 8x direct view optical sight or a three-lens CCD day gunner’s sight, both synchronised to the main weapon, complemented by a two-lens thermal imager and a laser rangefinder with a 10 km range. The commander is equipped with a periscopic sight provided with either a two-FoV direct view optic sight or a three-FoV CCD for day aiming and surveillance, and a three-FoV thermal imager. A series of episcopes provides direct situational awareness to the gunner, on 220°, and to the commander, on 360°.
The fire control system allows fire on the move and the independent commander’s periscope provides hunter killer capability. Maximum elevation is 30°, while depression reaches–10°. The LCT 30 features considerable protection on the frontal arc, the base level being against 23 mm API rounds fired at 500, which can be increased against 30 mm AP-T rounds with add-on armour; sides, rear and top are protected at Level 3. According to latest information Malaysia, which initially looked for 123 AIFVs with the LCT 30 and 54 more with the turret integrated with the South African Ingwe missile, has decided to install the missiles on all its Denel two-man turrets. A total of 264 Badgers are on order, most of which will be equipped with the LCT 30 in different configurations. Denel Land Systems also maintains the LCT-20 in its portfolio, which is a compact and lower cost turret with manual drive armed with the GI-2 20 mm cannon.
This South African company proposes its Super Land Rogue, which is armed with a 20 mm dual feed cannon, either the Denel GI-2, or the Nexter M693 F2. Ammunition magazines are located on either side of the weapon, each with 100 20×139 mm rounds. The Super Land Rogue can also be armed with the 23 mm 2A14 automatic cannon.
While keeping the architecture of an RCWS, the weapon is fully encased in an environmental protection pod, with optronics located under the weapon. The standard optronic package includes a CCD day sight with optical zoom, a two-FoV cooled thermal imaging and a laser rangefinder, optical auto-tracking mode being provided. A naval version, the SuperSea Rogue, has also been developed and is in service with the Benin Navy. This has an extended elevation arc of –35°/+60° while the land version has a –10°/+40° arc to offer a lower profile and centre of gravity; for both applications the customer can choose between full traverse or ± 150° traverse.
Two different turrets are part of the Yugoimport portfolio, the M80, armed with a 20 mm cannon, and the M91, featuring a 30 mm weapon. The M80 is available in two versions, full remote control through optronics, and a one-man configuration with gunner’s seat, firing station and direct view channel added to the previous configuration. The M80 is in service in Serbia where it has been qualified four years ago.
The M91 one-man turret origins trace back to former Yugoslavia. However this turret has undergone a series of upgrades, a new version known as the Vidra still being developed. Armed with the M86DF 30 mm cannon with dual-feed mechanism, a coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun, four 82 mm M79 smoke grenade launchers and two Malyutka 2 antitank missiles, the Vidra weighs 1,782 kg in full combat order and 1,430 kg without ammunition. The machine gun is located externally, over the main gun, the two missiles being on the right. The 30 mm cannon and the gunner are protected by a Level 2 ballistic steel armour, the front glacis being at Level 4+ while the sides are at Level 3, add-on armour being available for further protection. The Vidra is available with the gun stabilised on two axes. A basic FCS with sights and sensors slaved to the gun and a back-up sight on the left, or full FCS and stabilised sight round up the options. Yugoimport is currently working on the next configuration, expected by Fall 2014, that will see the Vidras transformed into an unmanned turret that preserves under-armour reloading and use as a one man turret with back-up commands and folding seat.
Kharkiv Morozov Design Bureau
In the Ukraine the Kharkiv Morozov Design Bureau has developed a series of remote control turrets. Aeavily armed, the Grom, Shturm and Parus all feature a 30 mm barrel, an AG-17 30 mm AGL, a KT or PKT 7.62 mm machine gun, and antitank missiles.
The Grom is armed with the ZTM-2 cannon, the Ukrainian version of the 2A42; a dual-feed weapon, it has two 180-round ready-to-fire belts and is capable to engage targets at ranges of 4,000 metres. The Grom has an unusual architecture in that it comes in the form of a rectangular box containing weapons and ammunition, the four 9P135M Konkurs antitank missiles being attached under the module. Considering the four missiles, the 30 mm ammunition, a 1,200-round belt for the machine gun, 150 30 mm grenades for the AG-17 and eight smoke grenades, the combat weight of the Grom towers up to 1,800 kg from the 1,280 kg of the system without ammunition. The Grom is proposed for increasing the firepower of light armoured fighting vehicles such as the BTR-60/70/80, the BTR-3E, the MT-LB, the M-113, the BMP-2 and others.
The BM-3 Shturm has a similar armament, but the cannon is the ZTM-1, the Ukrainian weapon similar in design and capabilities to the Soviet-designed 2A72. The turret layout is completely different from that of the Grom, as it comes in the form of a classical turret with the 30 mm cannon in the middle, the 7.62 mm MG to its left and the 30 mm AGL even further out to the left, followed by the optronic pod housing the Trek sighting system. On the right are two antitank missiles, which in this case are R-2 Baryer semi-automatic laser guided missile with a range of 5,500 metres. A panoramic camera is installed on the roof. The Shturm has a weight of 1,300 kg including ammunition, that is 400 30 mm rounds in two belts, 2,000 7.62 mm rounds, 87 30 mm grenades and the R-2 missiles. The Shturm has been fitted to BTR-3E1s acquired by the Thai Army.
The BM-7 Parus maintains the BM-3 Shturm architecture and weaponry, but has an improved sighting system with independent panoramic sight for the commander. The weight increases to 1,650 kg fully loaded; considering the reduced amount of ammunition, two 150-round belts for the cannon, 500 rounds for the machine gun and 29 grenades, it is safe to assume that the protection level has been considerably increased. The Parus equipped among others the second batch of BTR-4 provided by the Ukraine to the new Iraqi Army.
Kongsberg of Norway developed a medium-calibre remote control turret (although the company defines it as a remote weapon station) that can be armed with automatic cannon from 25 to 40 mm calibre, capable of integrating also antitank missiles thanks to the open architecture adopted. The Protector Medium Calibre prototype, unveiled in late 2009, features a fully stabilised ATK Mk44 30 mm cannon with dual-feed system, able to fire air burst ammunition.
The gun is installed under a ballistic shielding which can range from Level 1 to 4, a coaxial machine gun being also fitted over the main weapon. The overall weight without ammunition is of 1.8 tonnes, a further tonne of optional equipment being admitted, the Protector MC also being able to accept a Protector RCWS in a turret-on-turret concept. In early 2013 the Kongsberg turret underwent a three-month test at the Nevada Automotive Test Centre, since it is being proposed for the US Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicle. The Protector MC concept is now frozen and ready for production.
A new entry in the medium calibre turret club is EVPU of Slovakia, which has developed the Turra 30, a stabilised turret which can be armed with a variety of 30 mm cannons such as the CZ 30, the 2A42 and the ATK Mk44 Bushmaster II. Slightly on the left a coaxial machine gun, either a 7.62 mm PKT or a 12.7 mm NSV, is installed, with further left the optronic pod that houses a thermal camera, a day TV camera with zoom and a laser rangefinder.
The standard protection is Level 1 that can be increased with add-on armour. A missile launcher can be added on the left side, two types of missiles having been integrated, the Tula KBP 9M113 Konkurs and the Rafael Spike. At +75° and –10° the Turra 30 has a considerable elevation arc. A series of grenade launchers located in the turret ensure a 120° arc coverage. The turret in the standard configuration has a weight of 1,500 kg. In May 2012 the Turra 30 was shown at the Czech IDEB exhibition installed on a technology demonstrator based on the BMP-1 chassis developed by VOP Trencin. VOP Trencin and EVPU are also proposing a BMP2 upgrade known as the BVP-M2 SKCZ that includes the Turra 30.
Amongst the latest entries in the medium calibre turret producers we find EOS from Australia. The company developed a 30 mm turret armed with an ATK Bushmaster II 30 mm cannon that has been thoroughly tested in the last three years, and aims at having it ready for production in 2015.
Tank Guns for Medium Vehicles
With progress made on medium armoured vehicle structures on the one hand, especially in the wheeled variety, and the tremendous efforts made on guns themselves to substantially reduce recoil forces on the other, it was inevitable that two and two were going to be put together sooner or later. In many cases the ball is in the court of the militaries, as far as dusting off their doctrines is concerned.
CMI Defence is definitely the major producer of heavy calibre turrets, considering those from 90 mm up. The Belgian company is now offering four different turrets, starting with the lightest, the CSE 90LP, which gun has a 36-calibre gun with a nominal pressure of 210 MPa. Its weight and recoil allow its use on vehicles of more than seven tonnes, ballistic protection being increasable from Level 1 to Level 4.
A derivative of the former CS 90LP, the “E” added means electrically actuated, the former model featuring hydraulic actuators. This two-operator turret can be equipped with various sights and fire control systems, according to customer’s requirements, and its 30° maximum elevation allows indirect fire up to six km. The latter integration of the CSE 90LP was exhibited at IDEX 2013, the turret being installed on a BTR-3E 16 tonne 8×8 vehicle from Ukroboronservice.
Next is the two-operator LCTS 90MP, the 48.5-calibre barrel of which has a nominal pressure of 310 MPa. Aimed at vehicles comprised between 10 and 20 tonnes, it features an autoloader and its higher muzzle velocity affords it a range of 7.8 km with an HE round at the maximum elevation of 20°. Its FCS can include all the features found on MBTs such as day/night fully stabilised sight for the gunner and stabilised independent periscope for the commander, both with laser rangefinder, vetronic being linked to a fully digital architecture.
The interest in light tanks led CMI Defence to develop a new larger calibre gun – and consequently a new turret. Its 105 mm Cockerill CV HP gun has a 51-calibre barrel and features a pressure 120% that of standard guns, with a peak recoil force of less than 150 kN. The CT-CV 105HP, equipped with an advanced autoloader that allows to keep the weight low and avoid the need of a third operator. Fully electric driven, with mechanical backup commands, its digitised electronic architecture allows easy interfacing with customer required subsystems, optional sensors, as well as with the platform. In order to provide maximum operational flexibility the CT-CV 105HP features a considerable maximum elevation, +42°, that allows it to fire HEP rounds in indirect fire mode to a maximum range of 10 km. The gun not only fires all Nato 105 mm ammunition (including the Mecar M1060CV purposely developed for that gun that ensures a penetration of over 550 mm RHA at 2,000 metres into a Nato target angled at 60°), but also the CMI Defence long-range Falarick 105 gun-launched anti-tank guided missile. The Falarick, unveiled in 2010, features a laser semi-automatic guidance system and has a maximum range of 5 km, a flight time of 17 seconds and a tandem hollow-charge warhead ensuring a 550 mm RHA penetration behind ERA. The CT-CV has been tested on numerous platforms, one of the latest being the reinforced-roof Wilk variant of the Polish Rosomak (Wilk meaning wolf in Polish).
To further improve its portfolio aimed at medium tanks CNI Defence developed the XC-8 turret concept, which can be equipped with either 105 or 120mm Cockerill high-pressure low-recoil guns. The new two-operator turret leverages CT-CV 105HP experience and was unveiled at DSEI 2013 installed on a Korean Doosan K21 infantry fighting vehicle chassis, giving birth to a light tank with a gross weight of about 25 tonnes. When equipped with the 105, the XC-8 maintains the +42° maximum elevation of the Cockerill CT-CV 105HPt and its 10 km indirect fire range, making the light tank both a direct and indirect fire support asset.
CMI declined to provide any details on the version armed with the 120 mm gun, the only available information being that the gun is able to fire Nato standard 120 mm smoothbore ammunition as well as the 120 mm version of the Falarick, which ensures a penetration of at least 700 mm RHA behind ERA.
With the development contract for the next generation Centauro running, Oto Melara is further upgrading its three-operator Hitfact 105/120 that can be installed on vehicles from 25 tonnes up, the current turret weight being 6.5 tonnes sans armour. The turret structure is in aluminium in order to minimise the structural weight, add-on armour being then bolted to provide the desired protection level. A new design will allow reducing the outer surface, which is directly linked to the add-on armour weight, while keeping the same internal volume. Armour solutions are provided in-house and are mostly ceramic-based for weight saving purposes.
The new basket as well as inside arrangements are designed to provide maximum protection against mines and IEDs. Oto Melara and the Italian Army consider that the third man inside the turret covers not only the loader role but also a number of secondary routine and emergency roles. The turret is designed to accept an automatic loader as an option, which might lead in the long term to a remotely operated turret, a one tonne saving in armour being forecast, although according to Oto Melara the market does not seem to be ready for remotely controlled tank gun turret. The company is strongly marketing its 105 mm solution for the Brazilian requirement, this calibre being still much requested, while the 120 mm solution is also finding interest, also thanks to the new development in 120 mm ammunitions.
After years producing the MG251 and MG253 120 mm smoothbore guns, respectively for the Merkava Mk3 and Mk4 MBTs, IMI developed a new 120 mm ordnance, the RG120, which is roughly half the weight of the previous gun, at around 1,700 kg, and features a 20% lesser recoil thanks to a new recoil system and muzzle brake. The new weapon is optimised for remote-control turrets equipped with an autoloader, and IMI has already worked on a preliminary design of a 120 mm turret both with remote and direct control options.
Developed from the 76 mm turret installed on the Rooikat, the Denel LMT-015 is armed with the company GT-7 gun that uses the same barrel as the L7 coupled to a long recoil system that allows to reduce recoil forces. A 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun with 1,600 ready rounds is installed on the left of the main gun. A three-man turret, the LMT-105 weighs 6.5 tonnes and stores nine ready-to-use rounds in the turret basket and seven stand-by rounds in a bustle magazine. Protected against 23 mm on the 60° frontal arc, the rest of the turret is protected at Level 2. The commander’s stabilised panoramic sight provides a hunter-killer capability, full 360° being also available through the cupola equipped with episcopes. Installed for trial purposes on a Rooikat chassis as well as on an ASCOD tracked chassis, it hasn’t yet scored any orders.
Two more players seem about to enter the heavy turrets arena, both from Brazil, where a potential contract is surfacing. One is Ares Aerospacial e Defesa, the Elbit Systems subsidiary that is proposing the MT 105BR that integrates a 105 mm gun from Israel Military Industries (IMI), the second being Tarobá Engenharia without a turreted system.