Given the recent panorama of the Land Army’s 8×8 Dragon Combat Vehicle (VCR) program and the potential for the Land Army to forego equipping the 8×8 with a manned turret for the cavalry, one must consider why this type of turret is so important which continues to play a major role among the most modern armies.
As an essential factor at the operational level, the knight needs a very high level of situational awareness. During the mission, the commander’s ability to open the hatch and take a look at the surroundings is a great advantage in terms of situational awareness.
A manned turret offers a high level of combat capacity: in the case of Leonardo Hispania’s HITFIST, the crew not only have all the technological advances an unmanned turret can have, but also real capacity to operate manually in the event of a power failure. Both direct vision systems and manual weapon operating systems are advantages that should not be dispensed with in an emergency situation in which the fighter could find the vehicle immobile and without electricity. Manual operation is carried out for both the vehicle manager and the shooter from the same stations and each has 8 periscopes and an emergency fiber optic sight. All of these capabilities are not achievable with unmanned turrets, which manual operation is necessarily limited by the difficulty of accessing the manual movement and weapon operating systems.
Another problem for distant turrets is the difficulty for the marksman to lose track of the orientation of the turret or weapon. The shooter is in the fuselage and his sensory feedback only feels the vehicle’s acceleration. Therefore, it is not uncommon for both the gunner and the commander to have difficulty focusing on the alignment of the turret relative to the vehicle after a short period of time, especially when stabilization is activated.
On the other hand, it is necessary to talk about the level of protection that a manned tower offers. It is undeniable that the most important thing is protection of the crew, and with one manned and one unmanned system this purpose can be achieved. However, it is important to analyze the concept of protection and consider the extent to which the crew is equally protected. The concept of the unmanned tower, understood as one of its goals, to reduce the weight of the assembly, but isn’t it also imperative to protect the active systems of the tower that protect against attacks on the assembly itself? The lack of protection of an unmanned system can result in the ability to respond to enemy fire if the tower is completely out of order due to the lack of protection during immobilization due to this attack. Likewise, consideration should be given to the possible situation where the escape route through the tower could be blocked due to damage from the tower. We might think the solution is to protect the unmanned tower from the outside, but without realizing it, we would have eliminated the only different concept between the two, which is the previously mentioned weight reduction of the assembly.
We must remember to assess needs based on the type of mission. Aside from the combat capacity of both types of turrets, the role a manned turret plays in peacekeeping missions, where the scenario is that the operator can operate in natural conditions from the turret, is important to reduce the perceived “level of threat” to civilians, but at the same time work safely, as the system is equipped with external manual weapons.
All of the above functions and features are already available in the manned tower, which is in the final evaluation phase of the VCR 8×8 Dragon technology programs and has already been tested in various combat scenarios. A condition that its maker, Leonardo Hispania, expects to be critically important given the change in the scenario of the series program in relation to the previous technology programs.
It should be remembered that, like the companies that make up TESS Defense, Leonardo Hispania is a Spanish company with Spanish workers and the only one in Spain whose product portfolio includes a 30mm manned tower. Battle-tested, qualified against mines and able to ensure the safety of army soldiers. (Jos M Navarro Garca)
Photo: The HITFIST 30 tower for the 8×8 (Leonardo Hispania)
Demonstrator D4 with the HITFIST tower (Spanish Army)
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