The Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS) is a series of remote weapon stations used by the US military on its armored vehicles and ships. It allows weapon operators to engage targets without leaving the protection of their vehicle. The US military has fielded both the M101 CROWS and M153 CROWS II systems.
The CROWS system provides an operator with the ability to acquire and engage targets while inside a vehicle, protected by its armor. It is designed to mount on a variety of vehicle platforms and supports the Mk 19 grenade launcher, 12.7 mm M2 .50 Caliber Machine Gun, 7.62 mm M240B Machine Gun, and 5.56 mm M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. The system is composed of two parts: the mount which is fixed to the exterior of the vehicle and the control group. The mount is capable of 360° rotation and −20° to +60° elevation and is gyro-stabilized. The sight package includes a daylight video camera, a thermal camera and an eye-safe laser rangefinder. It is also furnished with a fully integrated fire control system that provides ballistic correction. The weight of the weapon station varies accordingly due to different armament modules: 74 kg (163 lb) light, 135 kg (298 lb) standard (including the naval version), and 172 kg (379 lb) for CROWS II.
The control group mounts inside the vehicle (behind the driver's seat on the Humvee). It includes a display, switches and joystick to provide full remote control of the weapon system. This enables the fighting crew to operate from inside armored combat vehicles, while still maintaining the ability to acquire and engage targets. Its camera systems can identify targets out to 1,500 m away, and the mount's absorption of about 85% of weapon recoil delivers an estimated 95% accuracy rate, as well as the ability to track targets moving 25 mph (40 km/h). Large ammunition boxes enable for sustained firing periods, carrying 96 rounds for the Mk 19, 400 rounds for the M2, 1,000 rounds for the M240B, and 1,600 rounds for the M249. Each CROWS costs $190,000.
The first supplier for the CROWS program was Recon Optical (Barrington, IL) with their RAVEN SRWS product. As part of the first CROWS contract, the Recon Optical RAVEN R-400 RWS were fielded in 2004 in Iraq, employed by special forces, military police, infantry and transport units.
M153 CROWS II
After an open solicitation Kongsberg Protech Systems (Kongsberg Gruppen, Norway and Johnstown, PA) won the CROWS II contract with a variant of their M151 PROTECTOR, which is also used on the Stryker M1126 Infantry Carrier Vehicle. Kongsberg received a framework contract of more than US$1 billion for the delivery of up to 6,500 CROWS systems to the US Army and a first purchase order exceeding US$300 million As of October 2009, the framework contract has been almost completely converted to fixed contracts. At the very end of 2009 the agreement was extended to include 10,349 systems.
More than a thousand M153 CROWS II systems are in use. It was employed on M1 Abrams main battle tanks until it was removed from service. It is employed in various versions of the Humvee, Buffalo MRVs, RG-31 Nyalas, RG-33s, the Army's M1126 Stryker APC, and was soon integrated into the Oshkosh M-ATV, JERRV, Caiman, and MaxxPro.
Sea PROTECTOR MK50
A nautical version of the CROWS II weapons system has been developed and deployed by the U.S. Navy on its Mark VI patrol boats . It allows vessels to engage speedboats piloted by suicide bombers at longer ranges. Gyrostablization is particularly important for a weapon carried by a small vessel being buffeted by waves when traveling at high speed. In Navy service, the CROWS II is referred to as the "MK50 Gun Weapon System (GWS)."
By September 2013, the U.S. Army had over 8,000 CROWS systems in use. The new CROWS III incorporates a laser dazzler to temporarily blind suspicious individuals rather than needing to open fire, additional cameras on the side and rear of the turret to expand situational awareness without rotating the turret, and an infrared laser pointer to paint objects at night. The larger version of CROWS is equipped with an FGM-148 Javelin missile launcher.
Even though Kongsberg Gruppen enjoyed record profits during this time, the decision was made to merge subsidiaries, Kongsberg Defense and Konsberg Protech Systems in an effort to save 100 Million NOK or $10,285,500 by terminating the contracts of several employees from these divisions.
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The Navy may have already selected a stabilized machine gun mount: .CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
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In April 2013, the U.S. Navy announced the order of a marinized version of the M153 Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS) from Kongsberg Protech Systems to fulfill requirements for its remotely operated Stabilized Small Arms Mount (SSAM) weapon systems program.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
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The Sea PROTECTOR MK50 has been undergoing testing this fall and features the latest technology from KONGSBERG, such as the VIS95 day camera providing enhanced situational awareness, as well as compatibility for an array of ammunition and weapons.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
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