2008: The German Army has begin receiving the first of 230 FLW 100 Remote
Weapon Stations (RWS). Weighing about 200 pounds, the FLW 100 can mount a
7.62mm or 12.7mm machine-gun, or an automatic 40mm grenade launcher. These will
be mounted on light armored vehicles in Afghanistan. The U.S. Army began
adopting RWS several years ago, and has ordered over 10,000 of CROWS (common
remotely operated weapon stations).
The idea for
CROWS/RWS 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 is 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).
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. The RWS are not as good as having an actual person up there
looking around, but the remote control aspect works well enough for troops to
use the system successfully in dangerous conditions. Most German soldiers also
have years of experience playing video games, and should have no trouble
adapting to the technology.