Army Testing Remote Weapon Towers As Perimeter Guards

Remotely-controlled weapons stations have drastically reduced the number of soldiers needed for perimeter security at an expeditionary base camp at Fort Bliss, Texas.

“Every Soldier I have assigned to securing the perimeter is one I don’t have that can execute support missions,” said Lt. Col. Raphael Heflin, commander, 142nd Combat Service Support Battalion, or CSSB, 1st Armored Division, in an Army press release

At a conventional combat outpost, it takes four to six soldiers doing eight- or 12-hour shifts to man one weapons system on the perimeter, he said.

Using relatively new remote control weapons systems, he said, pointing to a series of unmanned, weaponized towers at the edge of the razor wire, two soldiers inside the base camp tactical operation center can do the security work once done by 10.

The towers are fitted with a Browning M-2 50-caliber machine gun and a .338 Lapua sniper rifle.

The 142nd CSSB is among the many Army and other military service units – along with a 14-member coalition from mostly NATO nations – participating in Network Integration Evaluation 16.1, known as NIE. The evaluation runs from Sept. 25 to Oct. 8. In all, about 9,000 participants are evaluating new and emerging network solutions.

Capt. Robert Scott, officer-in-charge of the 142nd CSSB’s base defense operation center, explained how the remote-control weapons system works.

The systems, including the expeditionary towers atop which they’re mounted, are known as containerized weapons systems, he said.

One expeditionary tower “can be put together by six soldiers in less than an hour, with minimal training,” Scott said. When it’s time to pack up and leave, everything fits neatly back inside the container.

The weapons can be raised, lowered, rotated by 360-degrees and fired remotely, he said.

Operators sit inside a container with multiple large screens in front of them. To control the weapons, they use software called the Joint All Hazard Command Control System, which Scott said serves as the brains of the “Tower Hawk System.”

The weapons systems are even more effective at night, Scott said.

“Anything moving at night we see long before they see us,” he said, adding that “they” refers to the bad guys.

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Matthew Cox
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  • guest

    Stand off weapons will easily take them out.

    • 1c3

      And then can’t take out conventional towers?

      • guest

        Of course they can.

        • crackedlenses

          Would be nice to remove the personnel from these towers you have being taken out, then….

  • Jim P

    Kind of reminds me of the automated sentry units from the movie Aliens. Good idea (as long as the remote connection can’t be hacked) since it takes soldiers out of the line of fire.

    • Chris

      I’m sure they’ll be hard-lined to the control position, just as the remote surveillance systems currently being fielded are.

  • TacNinja

    Spam in a can if they get inside the wire!

  • TowerHAWK-er

    I’m on the TowerHAWK (TM) industry team, one of its original designers and a frequent visitor here at KitUP. Great article, but just a couple of clarifications: This article references two separate systems being demoed at Bliss this week. The containerized weapons system is shown in the first pict. It has an M2. TowerHAWK (TM) sits on a trailerable tower that can extend over 100′ in the air. It features a semi-auto .338 Lapua and an EO/IR ball-gimbal which operate in harmony as a Sniper-Spotter. A close-up picture of it at Benning earlier this year (not mounted on the tower) can be found here:

    Incase anyone is wondering, “HAWK” is an acronym for “High Accuracy Warfighter Keeper”.

    Thanks guys, keep up the good work.

  • TowerHAWK-er

    Picture of TowerHAWK on the trailerable-tower, prior to being extended:

  • Slag

    I could use a few at my place…

  • Jim37F

    Anyone else getting a Command and Conquer-slash-other-games vibe here?

  • desertdenizen2014

    So, if you were good at XBox, you can be good at operating one of these… Who knew that gamers would become so important? ;-)

    • TowerHAWK-er

      Exactly! That’s why we picked an off-the-shelf xbox controller as an integral part of the user interface. Very intuitive for the soldiers, the can learn the basics in just a few minutes.
      More info here, picture with the tower partially extended:

      • Scathsealgaire

        Mouse and Keyboard FTW. PC Master Race forever!!!

  • Stefan S.

    Put hundreds on the Southern border….Yep, I went there.

  • Robbie

    Seems like a good tool.. Two concerns: 1. Electronic sensors are great, but human senses have their own particular perception qualities and intuitive understanding that is impossible to completely duplicate electronically. 2. A fully alert and properly sized QRT will be even more crucial since there’s far less human backup on-scene to delay intruders if a tower is hit. Overall, with more soldiers now more physically distant from the “fence”, it will be essential to keep the sensor operators as alert and suspicious as possible, rather than being lulled to sleep depending on technology to be infallible.

  • Eric B.

    Can you say “vulnerable”? This weapon AND tower needs armor.

    • Chris

      The CROWS sensor package is armored to an extent. Also the heavier you make the system by adding armor, the more difficult it will be to deploy it.

  • Film Gun Guy

    “The Forever War” Joe Haldeman

  • gmcm


    do you know what else the 4-6 men manning the tower do? They MAIMTAIN the weapon!! The M2, while a workhorse in battle, needs it’s barrel changed out and to be reloaded. How does the nerd in the control room manage that? OHH! Who/What provides the supplementary fire while the weapon is being put back on line? Are the other positions in the perimeter defense overlapping that positions assigned sector when/if it goes down. Where does the repair or rearm personnel come from? Just another lets save time and money training but the training has nothing to do with the actual combat probabilities. gmcm/ret

    • Chris

      M2 needs the barrel changed to be reloaded? Negative. Also, the CROWS package allows for 500 rounds of continuous feed.

      • Chris

        Sorry, read that wrong. Yes, there would have to be a maintenance cycle for the weapon. However, that could be done by two Soldiers. Normally, COPs like the ones these systems are intended to protect, draw their security forces from the patrol platoons. Just having one more platoon available for QRF, or to integrate into the patrol cycle would be worth it.

      • seans

        These things are awesome. One you got a couple hundred rounds of 50 at your disposal, that is 1st round hit with the RED at ranges far beyond what a human can do. You rant like a you have a clue when you obviously don’t.

  • Bryan

    My first thought would be that during tower down time you either raise the other towers to cover it or launch a couple of drones to back them. I see the tall towers as a good concept but it is a weak point waiting to be exploited. Now make it capable of become a drone instantly, that would be a game changer…..

  • Chris

    I’m surprised it’s taken this long to develop a product like this. Ever since manning the pre-fab, modular, concrete towers in a COP during the Baghdad Surge, and seeing vehicle-mounted remote weapon systems, I always wondered why Raytheon or GD just didn’t put one on top of the other. That was in like 2007. Without getting into possible classified capabilities of the CROWS (it might be completely open-source now, FAIK) I can say that having multiple systems on elevated platforms would provide an amazing amount of security to an outpost or FOB. It frees up Soldiers who would otherwise be pulling guard to conduct their actual jobs, even if that IS patrolling in sector. Also, having hundreds of rounds of continuous and accurate .50 cal fire is never a bad thing to have at your disposal. Great idea, just 7 or years late.

  • LIAM

    the cameras have limited viewing capability…there is a need for cameras that can “see” like human eyes or better the peripheral vision…cameras do NOT have that capability…yet!! something like a “bug eye” would work!!