Naval RWS, More than just UAS swatters
There is a growing need to add remote weapons stations onto naval vessels to counter a range of emerging threats such as UAVs/USVs and swarming.
Remote weapon stations (RWS) for naval vessels offer a significant improvement in combat capabilities compared to manned weapons. One major advantage is that crew members can operate the weapon from inside the ship protected from both the weather conditions and enemy fire. Fitted with surveillance and targeting systems and available in a range of different medium calibre weapons, the RWS is cost-effective for ship self- defence at close quarters, particularly out to 160 feet (50 metres) and beyond, as well as for maritime interdiction operations where a large main gun or missile system is not the wrong choice due to size and expense.
In the crowded littoral environment at maritime choke points or along busy shipping lanes, there are a plethora of different commercial craft around that can make the detection of an asymmetric threat much more difficult. Under these conditions the more powerful long-range weapons of large frontline warships which are designed for oceanic warfare are negated. Therefore, ships must rely on the smaller weapon systems with specialised sensors for effective engagement in these surroundings. The utility of RWS allows them to be fitted to a wider range of ships from small boats, patrol ships and fast attack craft up to frigates, amphibious ships and logistics vessels. There are also a growing number of unmanned surface vessels being developed that are capable of using RWS. Recent procurement activity and RWS developments highlight the growing popularity of these systems.
The Indo-Pacific region is seeing a large increase in the number of new smaller ships being fitted with RWS and industry is developing new products to meet this demand.
At the Pacific 2022 exhibition in Sydney, Australia in May last year local company Electro Optic Systems (EOS) launched the R400-M, a marinised version of its R400S Mk2 RWS. The R400-M is being delivered to a Middle East navy fitted with the Northrop Grumman M230LF 30mm cannon and will be used across five different ship types ranging from fast attack craft and landing craft up to corvette-sized vessels. R400-M has also been selected as the RWS for the Australian Army’s Land 8710-1 Littoral Manoeuvre Vessel – Medium (LMV-M) project. The Army intends to buy 18 LMV-M to replace its LCM-8 craft. The LMV-M is designed to deploy the Army’s amphibious units over long distances whilst remaining undetected and the requirement is for each vessel to have two RWS equipped with 12.7mm weapons. EOS executive vice president, Matt Jones, told AMR that there are few naval RWS on the market that can host a 30mm cannon allowing the R400-M to fill a gap in the growing market for larger-calibre marinised weapons.
“A lot of [RWS] systems on the global market have been fitted with 25mm weapons and although still useful is becoming increasingly obsolete,” Jones said. “The 30mm round brings significant benefits, it allows the introduction of new ammunition technology that you can’t fit in a 25mm round including anti-armour, high explosive and a new proximity fuse that is useful against drones,” he added.
“Feedback from the Ukraine conflict is that .50 calibre (12.7mm) equipped systems do not offer sufficient firepower against Russian equivalents using 14.5mm machine guns that outrange the .50cal. There is more interest in lightweight 30mm calibre solutions to defeat that 14.5mm capability,” Jones said.