Remotely controlled sensors and weapon stations form another facet of unmanned systems, enabling soldiers to operate their weapons from a safe distance or behind the cover of armor. A wide range of remotely operated weapon stations was on display at Eurosatory 2006, ranging from small remotely controlled mounts for 5.56 and 7.62 mm automatic guns to 30mm unmanned and remotely operated turrets.
Rheinmetall Landsysteme and Kongsberg Protech exhibited the first results of their recently announced cooperation to satisfy a German Bundeswehr requirement for remotely operated weapon stations to be mounted on new wheeled and tracked armored multipurpose vehicles. The two companies displayed two types of systems: the 609 L (light) and P (heavy) versions, with 80% parts commonality, through the use of identical control stations but different external mounts. Thales demonstrated the SWARM multi-weapon station – the latest generation of remote weapon system entering service with tracked vehicles of the British Army.
Several companies demonstrated light weapon stations mounting 7.62mm machine guns or 12.7mm heavy machine guns. Among these were Elbit Systems (ORCWS), Thales (SWARM) and Kongsberg / Rheinmetall Defense (WS609L). RAFAEL introduced a new enhancement for its Mini-Samson RCWS, featuring a unique net-centric recording capability, monitoring on-board optronics and information systems. This capability is based on the integration of Mini-Samson with RADA’s avionic NCDR digital recorder system, which was featured here in its first vehicular application.
Elbit Systems also exhibited its compact 7.62mm unmanned turret and 25-30mm unmanned overhead remotely controlled weapon station. The 7.62mm turret is evaluated by the Israeli Army, for potential use with the Merkava Mk 4 tank. The 25-30mm ORCWS was displayed on a Renault VAP (4×4) vehicle. The unmanned turret uses a stabilized, remotely controlled mount for standard 7.62 automatic weapons. This design can be used on various vehicles, and does not require deck penetration for installation.
Being one of the pioneers in the Remotely Controlled Weapon Stations (RCWS) market, RAFAEL’s Mini-Samson received an impressive endorsement at Eurosatory 06. One derivative was displayed by Thales integrated into their urban-warfare modified VAB AZUR vehicle. Another installation developed by the Turkish armored vehicle manufacturer Otoklar, was displayed on their Cobra armored patrol vehicle, which is based on a Humvee chassis.
A Mini-Samson installation also appeared on the Panhard VBL light armored scout, demonstrating an advanced configuration integrated with a net-centric recording system provided by RADA. Similar systems were displayed on the Plasan Sasa Sand-Cat armored vehicle, ST Kinetics Bronco, and Uro VAM T5 vehicles.
The Enforcer, a derivative of RAFAEL’s Mini-Samson system was also displayed on BAE System’s Hagglunds Viking. The IDF is already operating the Mini-Samson RCWS, with some 200 systems in production to be mounted on Humvee patrol vehicles, to supply immediate IDF requirements. The IDF is also testing RAFAEL’s Mini Samson as an optional weapon for the Merkava Mk 4 main battle tank system and could include it as part of the basic configuration of future Merkava based heavy armored infantry fighting vehicles, the Namer. Mini-Samson weighs 95kg (without the weapon and ammunition). Standard ammunition load is 690 rounds, upgradable to 1,150.