March 10, 2006: The U.S. Army has discovered a remote control gun turret that works, and cannot get enough of them. The army wants over 9,000 CROWS (common remotely operated weapon stations), but is only getting 15 a month. There should be about a thousand CROWS in service by the end of the year.
The idea for CROWS has been around for nearly half a century. Years of tinkering, and better technology, eventually made the remote control gun turret effective and dependable. CROWS us a real life saver, not to mention anxiety reducer, for troops who drive through bandit country a lot, and have a turret mounted gun (usually in a hummer). The guy manning the turret mounted machine-gun is 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 on a computer monitor (with night vision 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 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).
But there's another reason, not often talked about, for the success of CROWS. The guys operating these systems grew up playing video games. They developed skills in operating 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. Iraqis are amazed at how observant CROWS is. Iraqis tend to just wrote this off as another example of American "magic." But the troops know better. Video games can save your life.