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Future weapons system for today's Airmen

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Zachary Hassay
  • 43rd Airlift Group Public Affairs
Even though most military vehicles with weapon mounts offer some form of protection, manning them can be extremely hazardous. Exposed to Improvised Explosive Devices, rocket-propelled grenades and enemy sniper fire in the Area of Responsibility, Air Force gunners are extremely vulnerable.

Recently, Airmen of the 18th Air Support Operations Group began training with a new weapon system that will reduce casualties and shelter Airmen from potential enemy threats. That system is the XM153 Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station.

The system enables gunners to accurately engage targets with near-perfect precision while safely inside the protection of their armored vehicle. It is a remotely controlled weapon system that can be integrated with any armored vehicle on a variety of platforms to provide gunners the ability to identify, engage, and defeat targets out to the maximum effective range of whichever weapon is mounted.

CROWS can be equipped with the MK19 Grenade Machine Gun, .50 Caliber M2 Machine Gun, M240B Machine Gun, or the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon making it highly versatile. The weapons mounted to CROWS operate off of a larger ammunition supply of the standard crew-served weapons. This allows Airmen to utilize larger combat loads with less reloading, keeping the crew protected inside the vehicle.

"This will reduce casualties by providing a safer environment for the mobile gunner of crew-served weapons," said Capt. Benjamin Walker, 18th ASOG Air Liaison Officer and Flight Training Commander.

Training with CROWS provides Airmen with new capabilities and technologies that enhance not only the Tactical Air Control Party community and the 18th ASOG, but the supported units as well.

"These are some of the first TACP personnel to ever be operationally trained in the continental U.S. on the weapon system," said Captain Walker. "This training will make our TACP personnel even more lethal by being trained and qualified to operate the CROWS. By utilizing this system during "Troops in Contact" events, it keeps our personnel safer and gives them the opportunity to protect their vehicle as part of the crew."

"Trainees are enrolled in a 90 percent hands-on course with numerous progress checks on learning throughout," explained Captain Walker. "The training is objectively checked by means of practical exercises, along with an end-of-course written exam. Trainees also participate in a live fire exercise for the culmination of operator level proficiency."

The weapon itself can rotate 360 degrees and navigate 60 degrees up and 20 degrees down allowing the gunner to neutralize nearly any threat within range. The weapon is controlled by a joystick, which allows the gunner to control the weapon single-handed.

"The CROWS system is a great tool for helping to increase the safety and survivability of our Airmen," said Staff Sgt. Samuel Caldwell, 440th Security Forces Squadron Combat Arms Instructor who recently received training on the system. "It has a bit of a learning curve at first, but in no time at all, I was able to operate the system very efficiently. Employing this system in the AOR is really going to save lives."

The weapon's sensory systems utilize a laser range finder with fire control software that allows on-the-move target acquisition, enabling the gunner to zoom and lock on to targets while the vehicle is in motion. The system also features programmable target reference points for multiple locations, sector surveillance scanning, automatic target ballistic lead and tracking, and programmable no-fire zones.

The weapon can be used at an extremely high accuracy rate while the vehicle is in motion and the enemy on the run. Additionally, thermal imaging cameras capable of target engagement in the daytime and nighttime operations are also incorporated.

"Overall the system is superior to the alternative of having a crew member sitting atop the vehicle manning a crew-served weapon," said Captain Walker. "The system provides the capability to selectively fire high caliber, high energy weapons and grenades at targets precisely, day or night."

Until now, gunners had to operate crew served weapons manually while on a moving vehicle from an exposed position. Thanks to the CROWS, Airmen can be rest assured; those days are coming to an end.