October 17, 2004 The Army has developed a prototype vehicle that may change the future battlefield. The Assault Weapon System, an experimental turret-mounted, multifunctional weapon system attached to General Motors' Humvee, may put the firepower of an entire heavy-weapons platoon into one vehicle in the near future. The system is the brainchild of Training and Doctrine Command, Raytheon and TRADOC System Manager- Close Combat Weapon Systems, and features an MK-19 grenade launcher, .50-calibre machine gun and two TOW missile-firing platforms.
All three of the weapon systems are connected to a central Improved Target Acquisition System (ITAS) that gives the gunner the option of firing each weapon with the flick of a switch and automatically gauges the range of the target by using an eye-safe laser range finder.
When the gunner flips a switch on the control panel and charges the weapon of choice, the display will change for the particular weapon and will show the sights for that weapon.
In older systems, the gunner would have to "walk in" the grenades when firing the MK-19, which means it would take several shots to hit the target. However, the ballistics for each weapon are already integrated into the ITAS, which gives the gunner better accuracy and the system's strength is its flexibility, in that the user can select the most appropriate weapon for a given task."
The system also features a networked, persistent, all-weather, extended range surveillance and target-acquisition capabilities for increased survivability and situational awareness.
The key to the improved communication is a system called Force XXI Command Battalion Brigade, which provides a connection among all the elements on the battlefield. FBCB2 combines Global Positioning System technology with a long-range laser targeting system that keeps everyone on the battlefield connected using real-time audio video and text messages.
In essence, the unit's operations centre can watch the battle through the gunner's sights and, if air support is needed, the position of the target will already be narrowed down to within 10 meters.
The versatility of the AWS is such that it currently takes several vehicles and nearly a whole platoon to match it, and if the system is approved, it will greatly increase the Army's fighting capabilities.
The vehicle pictured is a watered-down version of the tactical vehicle that is still in the construction phase. Plans for the tactical version include a smaller, collapsible turret, removable composite armour plating, undercarriage protection from mines, a smaller targeting screen, and the gunner's seat may be moved to the rear of the vehicle to allow for another team member and lower the distractions for both the gunner and the commander.
"We are already working on the tactical version because, if it gets approved, we will already have it and we can put it on the battlefield quicker," he said.