December 11, 2008: The remote control turret changed the battlefield more than you might think. It all began three years ago, when the U.S. Army realized that new remote control gun turret designs actually worked, and suddenly they could not get enough of them. The army ordered over 9,000 CROWS (common remotely operated weapon stations), but for a while could only get 15 a month. By the end of 2006, there were about a thousand CROWS in service by the end of the year.
The main issue was that the enemy was no longer able to knock out the turret gunner, early in a firefight, and take away a lot of the vehicles firepower. Because of that, once the enemy opens fire, they are in trouble. The remote turret tends to begin delivering accurate fire right away, and is much more immune to enemy fire than a human gunner. If the vehicle is a Stryker, the enemy will soon find themselves dealing with half a dozen or so heavily armed infantry, who get out of the vehicle and come at the ambushers. Iraqis don't like that. They also don't like how some of the CROWS turret equipped vehicles will come after them. All those accurately aimed bullets coming their way, and no enemy soldiers in sight, is demoralizing.
The idea for CROWS has been around for nearly half a century. Years of tinkering, and better technology, eventually made the remote control gun turret effective and dependable. CROWS is a real lifesaver, not to mention anxiety reducer, for troops who drive through bandit country a lot, and have a turret mounted gun (usually in a hummer). The guy manning the turret mounted machine-gun is a target up there, and too often, the bad guys get you. Not with CROWS. The gunner is inside the vehicle, checking out the surroundings on a computer monitor (with night vision and telephoto capabilities). CROWS also has a laser rangefinder built in, as well as a stabilizer mechanism to allow more accurate fire while the vehicle is moving. The CROWS systems cost about $260,000 each, and can mount a variety of weapons (M2 .50 caliber machine-gun, MK19 40-mm automatic grenade launcher, M240B 7.62mm machine-gun and M249 5.56mm squad automatic weapon).
The accuracy of the fire, and uncanny speed with which the CROWS gun moves so quickly and deliberately, is due to something few officers expected. The guys operating these systems grew up playing video games. They developed skills in operating systems (video games) very similar to the CROWS controls. This was important, because viewing the world around the vehicle via a vidcam is not as enlightening (although a lot safer) than having your head and chest exposed to the elements, and any firepower the enemy sends your way. But experienced video gamers are skilled at whipping that screen view around, and picking up any signs of danger. Iraqis are amazed at how observant CROWS is. Iraqis tend to just wrote this off as another example of American "magic."