Author: Valpolini, Paolo
Date published: June 1, 2010
Discussing the pros and cons of the various solutions might take the whole space of this article. It is clear, however, that a manned turret allows reloading under armour and offers the turret crew a direct view of the surrounding area. In addition, the weapon and its loading mechanisms are protected both from ballistic threats and natural agents such as 'sand, dust and rain. On the other hand, remotely controlled weapon stations have other advantages: with the exception of the command console all their volume is 'above deck" and thus preserves all internal space for infantry, although this also means that most ofthe weight. including that of ammunition, is placed quite high, which raises the vehicle's centre-of-gravity. However, they are much lighter, as their role is to merely sustain the weapon and its associated sighting systems, which allows smaller vehicles to be equipped with larger-calibre guns, provided they can withstand the recoil forces involved.
The final choice is thus a matter of technical considerations coupled to operational and doctrinal issues. Another driving factor is obviously price, with remote-control stations normally being much cheaper than manned turrets. Medium-calibre turret manufacturers are obviously targeting all-new vehicle programmes, although upgrade programmes, which are being launched to extend the operational life of existing vehicles, are also of great interest. This market has been estimated at about two billion Euros over the next ten years.
This type is highlighted by the upcoming contract known as the WCSP (Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme), which includes the WFlip (Warrior Fightability and Lethality Improvement Programme). The latter will see 449 of the 643 British Army infantry fighting vehicles receive a new two-man turret with a new weapon system. The army has chosen the CTA International 40-mm gun, which saves considerable space inside the turret while providing a terminal effect three times greater than the current Rarden 30mm gun. In March 2010 CTAI, a jointventure between BAE Systems and Nexter, was awarded a contract worth more than euro twelve million from the French and British Ministries of Defence for the formal qualification of the 40-mm cased telescopic cannon and ammunition, with work due to start in early 201 1 .
The two competitors for the Warrior bid are Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems. The Lockheed Martin team proposes a solution based on the legacy turret, with new gun integration carried out by Rheinmetall, while Thaïes provides the new thermal imager (numerous other subcontractors are also involved).
BAE Systems went for a totally new turret made of welded aluminium with appliqué armour. The company stresses the importance of the space available to the two-man crew, which not only mercases comfort but also safety, as it provides more headroom, a positive element in case of mine blast, while larger hatches allow an easy escape even for soldiers wearing body armour. This turret is proposed in a different version for the BAE Systems Fres-SV recce variant, the main difference being a large rear bustle which hosts most of the ISR equipment. An announcement for the two bids was awaited in late March 2010. but apparently budget will not allow both acquisitions, therefore the start of the Warrior programme will probably slip to the right by about one year.
Oto Melara started its Hitfist mediumcalibre turret family with the 25-mm turret installed on the Dardo, designed for the Italian Army in the mid-1980s. However, this turret was totally re-engineered when the company won the bid for providing the Polish Army with 313 examples to be installed on the Patria AMV Known as the Hitfist Plus, it weighs about 2.85 tonnes all fitted out and, in the Polish version, is armed with an ATK Mk 44 30-mm Bushmaster cannon offering a maximum elevation of +60° for engagements in urban areas.
A similar turret has also been installed on six Irish Army Piranha III 8 ? 8s. The same turret, armed with an Oerlikon KBA 25, is being adopted on the Italian Army Freccia and, compared to the Dardo turret, provides greater internal volume. The company has completed the integration of the Rafael Spike anti-tank missile in the turret, a requirement for the Freccia in its anti-tank version, as well as for Poland. A Selex Galileo Janus independent panoramic sight has been installed on a Hitfist 25 Plus turret. This configuration, which gives a hunter-killer capability, will probably be adopted by part of the Italian Freccia, such as commander's and anti-tank vehicles.
Rheinmetall is now marketing its Lance modular turret system, which was designed to accept different types of guns and Optronics. The prototype was of course built with most components produced within the Rheinmetall group, such as the Mk 30-2/ABM gas-operated automatic cannon able to fire air-burst munitions, which is the weapon adopted for the tracked Puma produced for the German Army. Other weapons considered for this turret are the 30-mm ATK Mk 44 Bushmaster II, the 35-mm Bushmaster III and the 40-mm CTA. Three different choices of coaxial machine guns are proposed, the 5.56-mm H&K MG4, the Rheinmetall MG and the 7.62-mm FNH Mag 58.
Based on an electronic open architecture, the Lance was born with a hunterkiller capability afforded by its Rheinmetall Seoss sights; the fully stabilised Seoss-Sector provides a day/night sighting capability to the gunner and runs the weapon stabilisation, the fire control system also being stabilised to provide redundancy. All-round observation to the commander is provided by the Seoss-Peri or by the Seoss-Mout, the difference between the two being the maximum elevation, +45° for the former (same as the gun) and +70° for the latter. The Lance has a real-time full-digital tracking system with a high frame rate (25/sec), which requires the adoption of a specific slip ring to obtain the sufficient data rate, this allowing to precisely track fast targets.
Ammunition loading can be done either from outside or from inside the turret, and a Spike launcher can be installed on starboard. The basic protection is Stanag Level 1, but this can be increased to Level 5+, Optronics protection being also available on request, as well as roadside bomb protection. Rheinmetall is proposing a series of options such 360° situational awareness, explosive and/or smoke grenade launchers, add-on sensors for speeding the sensor-to-shooter cycle, integrated battle management system, augmented reality, etc. Another proposal is a less-than-lethal weapon, known as Pascal, currently in the testing phase.
The first commercial success for the Lance was that for the Spanish Tercio de Armada, the Navy amphibious unit, which acquired four turrets to be installed on its Piranha Ills in a full-option configuration, with deliveries in 2011. With a combat weight of between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes depending on configuration, the Lance is aimed at vehicles of over 20 tonnes, but Rheinmetall stresses the importance of obtaining an accurate mechanical integration, especially in terms of roof stiffness for firing accuracy. The Lance has currently been integrated on board Mowag's Piranha III C and Piranha IV, Patria's AMV and the Artec Boxer. At Eurosatory 2010 it will be exhibited on the latter vehicle. While the company is currently focused on the production of the Spanish turrets, it is also looking with interest at the Canadian new infantry fighting platform and has received requests for quotation from various potential customers. The integration on the BMP family of vehicles is also being considered, although these present more problems in terms of roof stiffness compared to western European tracked systems, notably the Marder which was initially used as a testbed for the Lance.
Dene! of South Africa currently has a pair of two-men turrets in its inventory, the Light Compact Turret 30 (LCT-30) and the Advanced Modular Infantry Combat Turret (Amict). The LCT-30 is armed with the Mk 44 Bushmaster 30-mm gun, with full hunter-killer capabilities thanks to the independent commander's sight. From this turret Denel developed the Amict, aimed at the New Generation Infantry Combat Vehicle programme based on the Patria AMV, but also known as the Badger in South Africa and for which an acquisition go-ahead should be given in 2010. The first batch should consist of 264 8x8 vehicles in five different variants, which will adopt the Denel turret with different types of armament.
Infantry combat vehicles will be equipped with the newly developed Denel 30-mm Cam Gun (Emak 30) which uses a linkless selectable dual-feed system, with 210 rounds being hosted in the turret - 74 of which are ready for use; 30 in the left drum, 40 in the right and four in the feeder. Reloading is carried out under armour. The gun has an elevation from - 10° to +45°. The gunner has a day/night sight with two fields-of-view and a laser rangefinder, while the commander has an independent stabilised panoramic sight with two day channels, an optional night and rangefinder capability.
Section and fire support variants will be equipped with the 30-mm-armed turret while other variants, such as the mortar, command and missile variants, will have turrets designed around the primary fighting compartment module of the basic turret, armed with different weapons such as a the newly developed M10-BLLR 60-mm breach-loaded mortar, 12.7-mm machine gun or 40-mm automatic grenade launcher, or Ingwe anti-tank missiles.
Following the production and testing of a remote control turret armed with the 40-mm CTA gun under a contract for the DGA, Nexter was assigned a contract for the architectural study of a two-man, 40mm, medium-calibre turret, which should be equipped with a remote-controlled turret-on-turret with a 7.62-mm machine gun for all-weather panoramic observation. The main turret should provide a fire-on-the-move capability and is being designed to cope with urban warfare scenarios. This decision shows that the French military still favour a manned solution. The company is negotiating the full development contract which will lead to a demonstrator.
Although the company calls it Hitfist 30 OWS, the system unveiled by Oto Melara at Eurosatory 2008 is in fact a remotely operated turret, as all the systems are under armour. The turret is proposed with the Mk 44 Bushmaster gun but can host guns up to 40 mm. Its maximum elevation is of +75°. A hatch on the turret bottom allows reloading from under armour and manual operation in back-up mode. Based on open architecture electronics, a twin launcher for Spike or Javelin missiles can be added to the left of the turret. The Hitfist 30 OWS has a basic combat weight of 1.5 tonnes, about half the weight of the inhabited version, with Level 1 ballistic protection. Add-on armour to increase protection to Level 3 has an estimated weight of about 200 kilos. The price of this system is valued at about 80% of the inhabited version.
Specialised in light remote-controlled weapon stations, Kongsberg of Norway unveiled its Protector Medium Calibre RWS at AUSA in October 2009. The Protector MC shares much of the technology developed for the successful Protector M151 and Crows II but incorporates a heavier medium-calibre main armament, ranging from 20 to 50 mm, and is fitted with a dual-feed system. The turret has two-axis stabilisation, and its sensor suite will be selected accordingly to the range of the main armament.
Although defined as a weapon station, the Kongsberg Protector MC may also be considered a remotely controlled turret, as all subsystems are under armour. The protection level can be customer-defined for between Stanag Level 1 and 4. The Protector MC weighs less than two tonnes including cannon, coaxial weapon, ammunition and Level 4 armour. A 5.56 or 7.62-mm coaxial machine gun can be installed. The fire control system located inside the vehicle consists of a fire control unit and control grips. The system is based on open standards and allows the easy integration of add-ons such as anti-tank missile systems, non-lethal effectors, grenade launchers, surveillance systems, passive and active detection and protection systems. Kongsberg integrated its new turret on several types of vehicle and has already carried out numerous live firing tests. The Protector MC should be exhibited at Eurosatory on a Patria AMV
Rheinmetall is also looking at the remote control field with its Lance modular turret, which can easily be transformed into an uninhabited turret system while keeping a commonality of about 60 to 70% with the original. Components located in the turret basket are moved within the protection cell, while only those needed to operate the turret will be relocated within the crew compartment. While a two-man station with dual controls and three multifunctional screens is currently shown on presentations, the Lance-RC is still under development and a modular version will probably appear to fit customers' requirements. Depending on configuration, weight will fall between two and 2.7 tonnes. Currently the remotely controlled version is not Rhcinmetall's top priority, hence the planned introduction in 2013 only.
Remote Control Stations
Israel is definitely the leader in the medium-calibre field. Elbit Systems offers its UT-25 and UT-30 - a light turret armed with a 25-mm or 30-mm cannon and a 7.62-mm coaxial machine gun. Fitted with a dual-axis stabilisation system, it has a maximum elevation of +60° and is electrically operated from under armour. In resting position the turret is lowered in order to reduce the overall vehicle height and to allow its transportation either by air onboard C-130-type aircraft, or by rail, in which case the overdeck height is limited to less than 500 mm. The turret can be optionally equipped with antitank missiles, the first Spike launch took place in May 2009 in Poland, when Elbit Systems was taking part in the bid for the upgrading of the BWP-I, a plan that has since been cancelled.
The UT-30 is being installed on board 32 Belgian Army Piranha UIC 8x8 infantry fighting vehicles. The weapon adopted is the ATK Mk 44 30-mm Bushmaster (the turret is not equipped with missiles). Although limited in numbers, the order for the Portuguese amphibious troops' Pandur II 8 ? 8s marked the first export order for the UT-30 with integrated Spike missiles. The UT-30 was also chosen by Brazil for its VBTP-MR 6x6 developed by Iveco do Brasil. The Brazilian Army intends to buy up to 2044 such vehicles and while no split has been announced between the different variants, this might nevertheless prove a lucrative business for Elbit.
The Samson proposed by Rafael can be armed with 20 to 40-mm-calibre cannon and one coaxial 7.62-mm machine gun. Anti-tank missiles are offered as an option (the in-house system, the Spike family, has already been fully integrated). The Samson is provided as standard with a gunner sight and an independent commander's sight, providing a hunter-killer capability, and its peculiarity is that it can be folded down to facilitate air transport (an electrically driven triangle system allows it to be lowered after the ammo chute has been detached, reducing above-deck height to only 545 mm from its operational height of up to 1010 mm). Elevation range is -207+60° and combat weight is 1500 kg including 200 rounds of ammo for the main weapon and at least 250 for the coaxial one. Samson production is in full swing, the Czech Army having chosen the turret armed with the ATK Mk 44 30-mm Bushmaster flanked by an M240 7.62-mm coaxial and two Spike ER missiles, for its 72 infantry combat version of the Pandur 8x8. The first 17 vehicles equipped with the Samson were delivered in September 2009.
One of the latest and lightest entries in the medium-calibre remote control weapon station arena is the BAE Systems Bofors Lemur; heavily based on the smaller-calibre version, the 25/30's major difference lies in the slightly wider cradle. Developed due to a market request for weapons larger than 12.7 mm, the Lemur is currently offered with the ATK M242 25-mm Bushmaster and with the ATK M230LF 30-mm chain gun. In both configurations the elevation arcs from -20° to +55°. A coaxial 7.62 machine gun can be installed. Combat weight is about 450 kg for the 25-mm configuration and 350 kg for the 30-mm - in both cases with more than 100 rounds for the main gun and 300 for the coax. The system is in its last developmental phase and is undergoing qualifications; with the 25-mm version to undergo test firing when these lines are printed with production to be fired up within twelve months of a contract signature.
In the Ukraine, Kharkiv Morozov is marketing the Parus and the Grom. The former is armed with a ZTM-I 30-mm gun, an AK-17 30-mm automatic grenade launcher, a PKT 7.62-mm coaxial machine gun and two Barrier anti-tank missiles on starboard. The latter turret features a ZTM-2 30-mm gun, similar grenade launcher and machine gun, but four Konkurs missiles. In addition the Grom has a peculiar architecture as all automatic weapons are enclosed within an armoured box that is elevated from the vehicle allowing the missiles to fit under the box itself, the overall system tipping the scales at 1.8 tonnes.
Besides the Tarask one-man turret specifically designed for the VBCI, Nexter is proposing lighter options, particularly the ARX20 armed with a 20-mm M621 cannon also manufactured by Nexter. This calibre represents the limit between light and medium guns and allows either light 4x4 vehicles to be armed with a weapon that is heavier and more effective than a 12.7-mm machine gun, or bigger 6 ? 6s and upwards to maintain good firepower without dramatically loosing on their payload capacity thanks to its weight of only 270 kilos. With an elevation of -157+60° and 100 ammunition in stowage, this gyro-stabilised station can fire on the move and effectively engage targets at a range of up to 2000 metres.