BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan: The next generation of common remotely operated weapons station offer an updated version with more options to potentially protect service members and defeat insurgents across Afghanistan.
Located on top of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles the CROWS II allows for safer travels by enabling the gunner to sit inside the vehicle, which prevents potential casualties in vehicle rollovers. “Fact is we won’t have as many people killed in rollover,” said U.S. Army Capt. Timothy Ashcraft, Chief of Training with the Combined Joint Task Force-82.
The implementation of the CROWS II system doesn’t change the need for basic Soldier safety, which includes buckling your seatbelt.
“With the CROWS II if everyone inside wears their seatbelts we could reduce the amount of casualties caused in vehicle rollovers by a lot,” said Michael Hudock, an Athens, Ga. native, and mine resistant ambush protected vehicle instructor with Navistar Defense.
For U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Martuszewski, the division master gunner, with Combined Task Force-82, gunner safety is a personal issue. “I had a buddy die when he was thrown from the turret when his vehicle hit an IED (improvised explosive device),” recalls the Baltimore, native Martuszewski. Now if the vehicle rolls over, he (the gunner) won’t get crushed or thrown from the vehicle.
With the gunner protected from vehicle rollovers the gunner can concentrate his focus on eliminating enemy targets. Once a gunner locates a target he can utilize the laser range function of the CROW II to track the enemy and accurately engage the target.
CROWS II are feathered with an assortment of weapons capabilities including an M-2 .50-caliber machine gun, M-240 machine gun, MK-19 automatic grenade launcher and the M-249 squad automatic weapon.
The next generation of CROWS includes updates that will assist in the overall operation of the station.
“The new generation of CROWS includes advanced optics, a more user friendly control interface, which allows you to do more inside the vehicle,” said Martuszewski.
The system has body heat locators that can find insurgents day or night. “The system has night and day thermals, and with 90 percent ballistics accuracy, the gunner system is truly amazing,” said Sgt. 1st Class Andre Jones, a Jacksonville, Vt., native, and field service representative with Crew Served Weapons.
CROWS II are not entirely dependent upon an electronic source for control, which gives service members more options in emergencies. “In case you lose electronic capabilities the gunner can undo the lock clutches and manually operate the gun,” said Jones. “So, you still need to conduct your head spacing and timing checks prior to the mission.”
CROWS mark significant increases in safety and security for troops on the frontlines, but the main difference maker will always be the soldier.