Filling the Lethality Gap

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The Stryker readies for additional firepower.

By Christian Sheehy, TDM Managing Editor

The U.S. Army’s Stryker brigade combat team (SBCT) formation was designed to provide the infantry-based unit with a common vehicle in 10 different configurations. The combination of the varying configurations would enable the SBCT formation to conduct and support many different types of operations.

The original SBCT formations included a Mobile Gun System (MGS)—a Stryker vehicle mounted with a 105mm cannon. Due to challenges with the development and fielding of the MGS, SBCT formations have been missing a critical direct fire and fire support capability.

There are options to fill this gap. The development and fielding of Stryker with a 30mm remote weapons station (RWS) may fill the void created by the absence of MGS and enhance the ability of the SBCTs to operate today and on future battlefields.

The inclusion of the enhanced RWS will enable the development of either an MGS replacement or significantly increase the organic firepower on the Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs). Should this or a similar enhanced RWS be fielded, the SBCT formation would be better aligned with its original operational concept and further demonstrate the flexibility of the platform.

Modular Evolution

From the perspective of evolution, the Stryker ICV variant currently employs an M151 RWS that allows the employment of up to an M2/.50 caliber weapon. Hence, evaluating the concept of moving up to a 30mm weapon and operating it remotely (from a protected position within the vehicle, without unnecessary exposure) is a logical evolutionary development.

A 30mm RWS technology demonstrator developed by Kongsberg—called the Medium Caliber Remote Weapon Station, or MCRWS—has been integrated onto a Stryker ICV. The system has been in development for approximately five years and is the product of a joint effort by Kongsberg Protech Systems, ATK, and Meggitt Defense Systems.

The MCRWS is a different weapon station from the current M151 RWS on Stryker and the M153 Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station (CROWS). It does, however, share a great deal of commonality with that system, in hardware, software, and the man-machine Interface. Perhaps most importantly, from a user perspective operation of the MCRWS is very similar to the current fielded systems and it also supports the transport of the nine-man infantry squad.

The MCRWS was recently demonstrated at Fort Benning, GA. At this demonstration, the 30mm cannon engaged targets with precision at up to the physical limitations or the range, approximately 1,500 meters. The cannon used in the MCRWS technology demonstrator uses ammunition that is already in the Army inventory.

Outlook

“The addition of the 30mm RWS would enhance the firepower capability of the SBCT, thus supporting its operational capability in any environment,” said a former Project Manager for the Stryker.

“Furthermore, the SBCT is a mobile Infantry unit, and as such, its main Stryker platform is the ICV. The addition of a 30mm RWS is not intended to transform the ICV for ‘offensive’ employment, but rather would provide the ICV and the Stryker formations with increased stand-off and more lethal fires to support maneuvering infantry.”

The SBCTs and Kongsberg have learned a great deal via the roll out and sustainment of both M151 RWS and M153 CROWS. The lessons learned are incorporated in the design of MCRWS and include operational commonalty and similarity between the two RWS systems.

Though early in the development process, the Army is looking at the potential afforded by the 30mm RWS upgrade, but they have not yet made a decision.

Top photo caption: An armored vehicle outfitted with the 30 mm RWS by Kongsberg.

This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Armor & Mobility magazine.