New Humvee weapons system keeps gunner covered inside
February 8, 2004
ARLINGTON, Va. — One of the most dangerous jobs in Iraq is acting as a gunner during convoy movements. Even up-armored Humvees, which provide added protection for most of the crew, leave the gunner exposed.
But for the gunners assigned to four special up-armored Humvees in Iraq, convoy movements are a different experience: instead of spending the drive hunched in the turret, scanning their sectors and hoping for the best, these soldiers are comfortably seated the back of the vehicle, eyes glued to a computer screen and right hand on a PlayStation-like joystick.
If the gunner, or someone else in the convoy, identifies a threat, the press of a button instantly slews the gun mounted atop the Humvee in the right direction. Then the flip of a switch puts steel on target.
Throughout the ordeal, the gunner is safe inside the armored shell of the vehicle.
The system these gunners are testing is called CROWS, for the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station.
Designed to be mounted aboard a variety of vehicles, from armored Humvees to the new Stryker, CROWS supports the MK19 grenade machine gun, 50-caliber M2 machine gun, M249 semi-automatic weapon, and the M240B machine gun.
A fire-control computer and stabilizers allow soldiers to shoot with great accuracy, even while the vehicle is moving, according to Maj. Adam Tasca, assistant product manager for crew-served weapons at PM Soldier, Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.
Gunners “can fire a single grenade and put it right in the chest of an adversary at 1,000 meters,” Tasca said in an interview Friday at the Pentagon, where CROWS was on display.
Moreover, the system’s sensors, which include a laser rangefinder, heavy thermal weapon sight, daytime video camera, and an image intensifier, help the gunner see targets at night and in bad weather, Tasca said.
CROWS isn’t scheduled to be fielded until 2006, but last fall, senior Army leaders realized how well suited the system might be to help protect soldiers against threats in Iraq, Pete Errante, deputy program manager for crew-served weapons at PM Soldier at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., said Friday.
Four systems were promptly sent to Iraq for “operational testing,” Errante said. For security reasons, he declined to identify the unit using the CROWS, or its location.
Tasca, who recently spent six weeks in Iraq evaluating the system and soldiers’ reactions to it, said that so far the systems have been performing “superbly.”
“The reliability is 100 percent and [soldiers] love it,” said Tasca. “They want more of them.”
If commanders in Iraq decide to issue an “urgent needs” request that would subsequently be supported by Army leadership, CROWS manufacturer Recon/Optical, of Barrington, Ill., is ready to begin manufacturing the system immediately, Errante said.