Military

US Army tests remote controlled weapon towers

Lieutenant Colonel Raphael Heflin, right, commander, 142nd Combat Service Support Battalion, 1st Armored Division, and another soldier pass near a remotely-controlled weapons system
Lieutenant Colonel Raphael Heflin, right, commander, 142nd Combat Service Support Battalion, 1st Armored Division, and another soldier pass near a remotely-controlled weapons system
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Soldiers inside their tactical operations center remotely control multiple weapons systems on the perimeter
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Soldiers inside their tactical operations center remotely control multiple weapons systems on the perimeter
Major Daniel Rodriguez, company commander, 542nd Quartermaster Company, a Reserve unit out of Erie, Pennsylvania, points out his Advanced Medium Mobile Power Source, or amps micro grid, which controls six 60-kilowatt generators
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Major Daniel Rodriguez, company commander, 542nd Quartermaster Company, a Reserve unit out of Erie, Pennsylvania, points out his Advanced Medium Mobile Power Source, or amps micro grid, which controls six 60-kilowatt generators
Tower Hawk controller
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Tower Hawk controller
Some Tower Hawk controllers resemble those on video games (in fact, this one is an Xbox controller)
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Some Tower Hawk controllers resemble those on video games (in fact, this one is an Xbox controller)
A Water From Air System trailer
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A Water From Air System trailer
Staff Seargent James Clarke, from the 563rd Quartermaster Company, shows his Force Provider System air-conditioned living quarters
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Staff Seargent James Clarke, from the 563rd Quartermaster Company, shows his Force Provider System air-conditioned living quarters
A heavy equipment transporter gets the container system out to the expeditionary base camp on Fort Bliss, Texas
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A heavy equipment transporter gets the container system out to the expeditionary base camp on Fort Bliss, Texas
Major Daniel Rodriguez, company commander, 542nd Quartermaster Company, a Reserve unit out of Erie, Pennsylvania, points out his Force Provider System air-conditioned living and working quarters
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Major Daniel Rodriguez, company commander, 542nd Quartermaster Company, a Reserve unit out of Erie, Pennsylvania, points out his Force Provider System air-conditioned living and working quarters
One expeditionary tower can be put together by six soldiers in less than an hour with minimal training
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One expeditionary tower can be put together by six soldiers in less than an hour with minimal training
A remotely-controlled weapons system is shown on the expeditionary base camp perimeter
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A remotely-controlled weapons system is shown on the expeditionary base camp perimeter
Tower Hawk control center
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Tower Hawk control center
Lieutenant Colonel Raphael Heflin, right, commander, 142nd Combat Service Support Battalion, 1st Armored Division, and another soldier pass near a remotely-controlled weapons system
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Lieutenant Colonel Raphael Heflin, right, commander, 142nd Combat Service Support Battalion, 1st Armored Division, and another soldier pass near a remotely-controlled weapons system
A soldier pulls security, augmenting remotely-controlled multiple weapons systems on the perimeter
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A soldier pulls security, augmenting remotely-controlled multiple weapons systems on the perimeter

One of the more unpleasant aspects of army life has always been guard duty. It's also very labor intensive. In the US Army, it takes four to six soldiers standing for up to 12 hours to man a single perimeter weapons system. To free up personnel for more important duties, the Army is testing the Tower Hawk System, which uses tower-mounted, remote-controlled weapons for base perimeter security.

The tests are part of the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 16.1, which is currently being conducted at an experimental expeditionary base camp at Fort Bliss, Texas. The camp consists of 15 air-conditioned billeting containers – complete with latrines, laundries and shower – that can house ten soldiers each, plus two containers for tactical operations. It's here that 9,000 participants from the US Army and a 14-member coalition made up mainly of NATO nations are evaluating new technologies designed to make forward base operations more efficient in terms of energy, water and manpower.

The Tower Hawk System replaces conventional guard towers with unmanned towers set around the edge of the razor wire. It's shipped in the form of containers and the towers that can be erected in less than an hour by six soldiers with only minimal training. Each tower is equipped with a Browning M-2 50-caliber machine gun and a 338 Lapua sniper rifle, though any other gun system can be swapped in.

Meanwhile, two soldiers in the base tactical operations center sit in front of large screens providing normal, thermal, and infrared vision for watching outside the perimeter. The operators use handheld controllers, at least some of which appear to be commercial video game controllers (that's clearly an Xbox gamepad in the image below) that allow them to raise, lower, and rotate the weapons by 360 degrees, as well as fire them remotely. These are linked to the Joint All Hazard Command Control System software, which can differentiate between friend and foe, and can automatically track identified hostiles.

The upshot is that two soldiers can do the guard work of ten.

Some Tower Hawk controllers resemble those on video games (in fact, this one is an Xbox controller)
Some Tower Hawk controllers resemble those on video games (in fact, this one is an Xbox controller)

Tower Hawk is one of a number of technologies under evaluation at NIE, including 11 new energy systems designed to reduce fuel and water consumption. Among these is the Advanced Medium Mobile Power Source, or "amps micro grid," which is a smart system that controls six 60-kilowatt generators. The system brings the generators on and off line as needed rather than running them continuously. It also monitors the generators and warns when one is in need of servicing.

Another is a Water From Air System that works on the principle of a domestic dehumidifier to draw moisture out of the air at a rate of 500 gallons a day at even 10 percent humidity. In addition, there's a black-water purifier and a gray-water recovery system designed to recover water after use and to ensure that discharges are clean before being released into the surrounding environment.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Raphael Heflin, commander, 142nd Combat Service Support Battalion, 1st Armored Division, the arrangements at the test base make for much more comfortable living than is usually the case.

Soldiers inside their tactical operations center remotely control multiple weapons systems on the perimeter
Soldiers inside their tactical operations center remotely control multiple weapons systems on the perimeter

"I've got a few new soldiers here who've never been in field," he says. "Next time they go to the field they'll be disappointed."

The video below shows the Tower Hawk System in operation.

Source: US Army

Network Integration Evaluation 16.1

21 comments
Alien
Excellent automation allowing much better use of expensive personnel...but I hope the 'friend or foe' identification system really is foolproof.
MD
Really I hope the finger on the trigger uses it's animal logic to offset the machine logic in this logical example of automation. IFF, can be fooled, and so-to can a human, but there always needs to be checks and balances, rewards and consequences.
Slowburn
It needs a weather shield to keep freezing rain and snow of it.
RelayerM31
'Bout time.
Brian M
Looks like a disaster waiting to happen. Either enemy is going to get through or friend is going to get shot. Sentries need to be random in the way they scout/view, this looks as though it just scans in sequence! Or perhaps it is a wide field scan and the movement is for effect? If so better to leave gun centred for quickest movement to target anywhere in field. Prefer a real human sentry with a backup of technology not the other way round (at least for now)!
steveraxx
Twenty two American soldiers were shot and killed to day by the latest automatic sentry system. Lockheed Martin has so far refused to comment on the situation.
CliffG
Life imitates movies. Wait, we need volunteers to replace the ammo box. Oops.
Stephen N Russell
Test in US federal prisons & State prisons alone to cut costs. Wow. Love this Place around DoD, CIA, NSA Hqs alone. Must for WH defense. Now the hue & cry from Corrections Officers union alone over this. Place at Edwards AFB FTC, Los Alamos Labs, NIH, NUMA.
StWils
Not only is IFF imperfect but most anything can be hacked and also relying on just one or two soldiers focuses a giant amount of responsibility on just those one or two operators. What happens if those one or two happen to have the world view of Tim McVeigh, or Major Hassan, that ultimate pinhead, Bergdahl? Running a perimeter is a hassle and I still would prefer to have more soldiers doing this than fewer. And I still want the hardware assist!
Roger Aikins
Step in the right direction but well placed rounds or RPG will knock out sensors or emplacement's..The water harvesting system is amazing