Quotulatiousness

March 24, 2011

Stone the CROWS: US Army’s next step to robotic combat

Filed under: Military, Technology, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:46

It may not herald a new droid army, but it’s a welcome development for front-line troops:

The Protec RWS is the key component of the U.S. Army CROWS (common remotely operated weapon stations). This idea of a remote control turret has been around for nearly half a century, but years of tinkering, and better technology, have finally made the remote control gun turret finally work effectively, dependably and affordably. This has made the RWS practical for widespread combat use. While some troops miss the greater feeling of situational awareness (especially being able to hear and smell the surroundings) you got as an old-school turret gunner, most soldiers and marines have adapted and accepted the new system. What it lacks in the smelling and hearing department, it makes up in terms of night vision and zoom. And it’s a lot safer.

CROWS is a real life saver, not to mention anxiety reducer, for troops who drive through bandit country a lot, and man the turret gun. You’re a target up there, and too often, the bad guys get you. Not with CROWS. The gunner is inside the vehicle, checking out the surroundings (with night vision, zoom and telephoto capabilities). CROWS also has a laser rangefinder built in, as well as a stabilizer mechanism to allow more accurate fire while the vehicle is moving. The CROWS systems (RWS, weapon and installation) cost about $260,000 each, and can mount a variety of weapons (M2 .50 caliber machine-gun, MK19 40-mm automatic grenade launcher, M240B 7.62mm machine-gun and M249 5.56mm squad automatic weapon). CROWS comes in several different configurations, based on weapon mounted and armor installed (light, at 74 kg/163 pounds, standard, at 136 kg/298 pounds and CROWS II, at 172 kg/379 pounds.) The heaviest version is usually used in MRAP (armored trucks) and has a better user interface, a thermal imager and sniper detection system.

By the end of 2006, there were about a thousand CROWS in service. There are now nearly 8,000. Many of the enemy fighters have seen Western or Japanese films featuring killer robots, and often think that’s what they are facing. The fear factor is real, and it helps. The accuracy of the fire, and uncanny speed with which the CROWS gun moves deliberately, is due to something few officers expected. The guys operating these systems grew up playing video games. They developed skills in operating computer systems (video games) very similar to the CROWS controls. This was important, because viewing the world around the vehicle via a vidcam is not as enlightening (although a lot safer) than having your head and chest exposed to the elements (and any firepower the enemy sends your way). But experienced video gamers are skilled at whipping that screen view around, and picking up any signs of danger.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress