This year at DSEi 2017 a number of countries had their lesser known and newly developed vehicle mounted Remote Control Weapon Stations (RCWS) on display for the defense industry exposition in London. Rather than list each entry individually, it is fitting that we include them all here for readers to examine and compare. Although the United States has fielded multiple versions of vehicle mounted remote weapon systems, probably the CROW being the more well known design throughout the U.S. Army, some of these other countries are much lesser known. Specifically at DSEi 2017 were designs from Slovenia, Slovakia, Belgium, and the UAE.
The need for a turret mounted, machine gun bearing remote weapon systems on vehicular platforms have increased tremendously over the previous decade. Some of this change has been due to the asymmetrical warfare that conventional militaries are facing, such as the experience of the United States in OEF and OIF. Because conventional forces are often at the mercy of insurgent groups that know the local ground much better and have the luxury of time to set in ambushes, leaving turret gunner exposed to attacks specifically aimed at them, the vulnerable extremity of an armored vehicle.
Of course, the idea of a remote weapons system is a part of the armoring up versus slimming down arguments that have been spurred by recent conflicts. Usually these involve the points that although armoring up (vehicles, body armor, etc…) can save lives, it limits operational flexibility and even contact with the local population (essential in a COIN fight), while slimming down can increase casualties, it can lead to better situational awareness, and improved mobility on foot and in vehicles.
All images and descriptions are drawn from Army Recognition, more detailed descriptions are available on their respective pages, here we’re just going to summarize the unique and interesting characteristics mentioned.
Slovakia/ EVPU GLADIUS 12–
Although the GLADIOUS 12 is shown mounted with a .50 BMG M2, it can be mounted with an M240 or 40x53mm Mk.19 if the description is correct. This RCWS appears to be produced with the heavier tracked or 4×4 armored vehicles in mind, rather than MAT-Vs, HUMVEEs, or similarly lighter in comparison vehicles.
Belgium/ FN Herstal deFNder–
The FN Herstal deFNder was actually shown in conjunction with the Estonian THeMIS remotely controlled ground vehicle. The combination has actually seen service with Estonian troops in a recent military exercise, with much apparent success. Speaking from conjecture, but FN Herstal should theoretically have some gains on other RCWS designs because FN Herstal produces the very M240s and M2s that many of the NATO systems are built around.
Slovenia/ Valhalla Turrets MIDGARD–
By far the largest of the four featured on Army Recognition, the Slovenian MIDGARD also packs the most amount of ordnance, in addition to either having a single or dual weapon mount, it also appears to have eight smoke grenade dispensers. Although other entries don’t mention the possibility, the MIDGARD can be manually operated (forcibly if the electronics fail), in addition to being remotely controlled from within a vehicle.
UAE/ International Golden Group IGG-RWS14–
The IGG-RWS14 appears to be based on the Soviet KPV 14.5mm heavy machine gun, possibly being one of the only RCWS on the market that can mount Warsaw Pact era weaponry. It is similar in dimensions to the FN Herstal design, appearing to be much lighter in weight than the other designs listed.