Sunday, June 22, 2008

Up-gunning of Remote Weapon Stations

Finally, my first article on defense technology!

A note from Eurosatory 2008: Nexter has unveiled a remote weapon station that can mount medium caliber cannons from 20mm and up. As Jane's reported,

"We noticed that forces wanted something more powerful than a .50 cal [machine gun]," explained Pierre Clouvel, Nexter's executive vice-president for equipment. "For example, we received orders recently for the P20 [a Nexter 20 mm-armed manned weapon mount] to be mounted on the Otokar Cobra [armoured personnel carrier]."

This remote weapon station is primarily meant for light vehicles such as Humvees. This model marks the leap in RWS capability from small caliber machine guns to medium caliber cannons. Airborne forces will directly benefit from this development.

More broadly, the Iraq war has spurred the transition from manned turrets to unmanned ones. The proliferation of RWSs started as a way to keep gunners under armor protection, without significantly adding weight to the vehicles or increasing rollover risk. Along the way, vendors have increased RWS's capabilities by adding missiles, and now light cannons. As unmanned turrets adorn light armored vehicles with medium caliber cannons, armies around the world will have to ask themselves, Why should they keep manned turrets on their infantry fighting vehicles?

This rise of the unmanned turrets also has implications for the US Future Combat System. FCS manned vehicles are overweight and do not meet their original C-130 transportability specification. Based on the current artist drawings, it appears that the designers are trying to hold down weight using unmanned turrets. However, the turrets are still too bulky in the current configuration. GDLS and BAE needs to go all in and reduce the turrets to skeletal conditions. They can save the armor panels for "up-armored" situations.

2 comments:

atacms said...

Excellent point regarding the need for slimming down vehicle weight via smaller or NO turrets at all if possible.

I recall when the FCS was a common chassis for the tank and IFV replacement. The tank had an externally mounted gun, with sensors, but no turret. Whatever happened with that design? It made more sense than the current FCS-MGV.

Oh and the NLOS-C looks like it's on steroids compared to Bae's initial design. Actually I think when it was slim without that massive turret, it was a United Defense design. That might explain the problem.

Jimmy said...

BAE's initial design was just a concept demonstrator. It was to prove that NLOS-C would be a low cost project to spiral out early.

I think that the brass just cannot stand the look of a skeletal turret because of the possibility of a functional kill. Though, of course, they could always have an alternate weapon (Mk-19, say) for vehicle self defense. American armor design is just so behind the times.