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Weapons turrets for UAVs?

cluttonfred

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I have fished around but the only "turrets" I have been able to find offered for UAVs are for cameras of various kinds, laser rangefinders or target designators, etc. With the likely increasing UCAV role in the future, I am surprised that no one is offering helicopter-style chin or belly turrets (remote weapons stations, if you prefer) for mounting machine guns or light cannon on unmanned aircraft. Does anyone know of any such products?
 

AeroFranz

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if you look up a Lockheed VARIOUS video on youtube, you will see not only at cannon turret, but a retractable one at that. I have my doubts on the practicality of such arrangement.
 

Matej

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Just consider the force feedback on such a tiny UAV during the fire and the most important thing - the times, when you spray your enemy a bit with a bunch of unguided bullets is definitely gone. When we are talking about the UAVs, I think, that such a era didnt have time even to start.
 

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cluttonfred

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I am not so sure that I agree with that logic. Modern figher jets and attack helicopters continue to mount cannon or machine guns. If they are to be supplanted by unmanned aircraft in many roles, then some of those unmanned aircraft will need guns as well. Close air support and counterinsurgency mission are two examples.
 

Machdiamond

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A compact retractable cannon turret is not out of this world, it already exists in the form of the BAE Remote Guardian System.

As Spock would say, it would only be logical to consider it for some larger UCAV, considering it is remotely operated in the first place.
 

AeroFranz

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I could see moderately large UAVs employing turreted guns. What's the threshold? i guess it depends on the size of the gun. Probably a couple thousands of pounds of takeoff gross. The same rules as manned aircraft apply.

But why retractable? unless you have weird design constraints, like what i suspect is the case with the V-22, the drag penalty is less than the weight/reliability penalty. VARIOUS would supposedly retract the turret to preserve signature. But you can't hide something that's flying low and slow while it's shooting at people. So, how does a retractable turret buy its way into the design? Admittedly, I could be missing something...
 

cluttonfred

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Machdiamond said:
A compact retractable cannon turret is not out of this world, it already exists in the form of the BAE Remote Guardian System.

Thanks. A lighter, simpler version of the BAE RGS is exactly what I had in mind. Something like that with a heavy MG, 40mm grenade launcher or ATK LW25mm Bushmaster would be perfect for medium-sized platforms such as the USMC might want for close air support. A rifle-caliber MG, Metal Storm tube or the Neopup 20mm semi-automatic grenade launcher would work for even lighter platforms.
 

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Have you seen ARSS -

http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military/planes-uavs/4313331

- a precision sniping turret for unmanned rotorcraft.

It's built for a .338 sniper rifle but has been tested with a variety of other weapons.
One or more could be fitted to fixed-wing UAVs to make a sort of mini-gunship.
 

quellish

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Mole said:
I have fished around but the only "turrets" I have been able to find offered for UAVs are for cameras of various kinds, laser rangefinders or target designators, etc. With the likely increasing UCAV role in the future, I am surprised that no one is offering helicopter-style chin or belly turrets (remote weapons stations, if you prefer) for mounting machine guns or light cannon on unmanned aircraft. Does anyone know of any such products?

What problem would this be trying to solve?
 

Machdiamond

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Stop using a $68000 smart bomb to take out a bad guy armed with a 1947 pistol maybe?
 

AeroFranz

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How about a laser guided APKWS? IIRC a Vigilante helicopter UAV has already demonstrated 2.75" rocket firing capability. Collateral damage is less than a Hellfire, and the Israelis have used those to take out individual high value human targets. Guidance is also easier than trying to stabilize a sight and gun mount and achieve the required precision.
 

quellish

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Machdiamond said:
Stop using a $68000 smart bomb to take out a bad guy armed with a 1947 pistol maybe?

There are a number of other options.
 

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cluttonfred

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Those are all excellent options as well, but bullets or cannon shells, even smart shells that burst at a calculated distance, are still a lot cheaper and less likely to cause unwanted collateral damage.

A long-endurance COIN/CAS UCAV armed, for example, with two 19-round pods of guided rockets,' twelve Griffins, four Hellfires, and a stabilized and and precise turret-mounted gun, say a .50 cal or a 20-25mm gun, would have the deep magazines and the scaleable range of response to deal with anything from a lone sniper to a main battle tank.

A light tactical UAV with just the gun and two seven-round pods of guided rockets would also be very handy, say a quiet rotorcraft or other low-speed aircraft controlled from the forward area.
 

Retrofit

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quellish said:
There are a number of other options.

Photo of a Thales UK Lightweight Multirole Missile installed on a Schiebel S-100 Camcopter UAV on Flightglobal siteweb (bottom of the page):

http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2011/04/05/355186/uk-orders-thales-lightweight-multi-role-missiles-for-lynx.html
 

cluttonfred

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Yes, the need to arm UAVs and provide manned vehicles with scaleable response is spawning lots of smaller, lighter guided weapons, but, so far, few suitable turret-mounted guns.
 

starviking

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Mole said:
Those are all excellent options as well, but bullets or cannon shells, even smart shells that burst at a calculated distance, are still a lot cheaper and less likely to cause unwanted collateral damage.

Surely the problem is that a missile or a PGM target can be identified, designated (either by painting with a laser or by the UAV's remote operator), the munition can be fired and then kept locked-on by software.

With a machine-gun or cannon maintaining the lock on the target would be more problematic, due to recoil, rounds would disperse, and targets would need a lot of rounds fired their way to assure a 'kill'.

Flight characteristics will also be more important in the equation - firing your turret abeam will assuredly have a different effect from firing forward. Not really a problem with missiles.
 

cluttonfred

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All true but nothing that can't be overcome with a stablized turret, laser rangefinder and intertial guidance system. You're right that recoil may well be an issue and may be an arguement for semi-automatic rather than full-automatic fire when accuracy is critical. Keep in mind, though, that we are not talking about backpack UAVs, nor are we talking about the A-10's huge GAU-8/A Avenger cannon. The weapons loads I described in my examples above were for a few thousand pounds in the "heavy" case down to 500-1000 lbs in the "light" case, so we are talking about aircraft about the size and weight of a Cessna Caravan down to a Cessna 172. Many aircraft in that size range, such as the Bell H-13 (Model 47) helicopters in Korea and the O-1 Bird Dog FAC planes in Vietnam, fired medium machine guns and 40mm grenades (M79 "Thumper") with no ill effects.
 

AeroFranz

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I think that a good answer to your question could be found by finding the smallest turreted gun installation successfully applied to an aircraft, manned or unmanned. Fixed installations (like i suspect the Bird dogs' and H-13's were) present fewer problems because you apply recoil forces only in one direction and the load cases are simple. Usually there is decent structure to take the loads in the fore/aft direction.
With a turret, you have to resolve the loads in a variety of azimuthal and elevation directions, so installations are probably beefier, needing larger aircraft.

Anyway, I would be curious to know what was the smallest turret ever fitted to an aircraft :)
 

cluttonfred

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The smallest remote aircraft turret I can think of is the Bell Model 207 Sioux Scout with a pair of 7.62mm M60 machine guns, though that was a proof-of-concept design for the helicopter gunship that became the Huey Cobra, so never actually intended for combat. But there are some awfully light aircraft that have been fitted with a ring- or pintle-mounted machine gun and a human gunner firing at various angles with no I'll effects. That kind of "turreted gun system" can't weigh much more than 250-300 lbs. With the proliferation of remote weapons stations available today, some of them fully stabilized, for weapons as light as a 5.56mm machine gun, I just don't see any major technical obstacles to putting a light turret on a UCAV of, say, 500 lbs or more gross weight.
 

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With very light guns the UAV (which would still presumably need to be at least Hermes450-sized to accommodate it, ammunition and a targeting sensor, so not exactly cheap) might have to descend into the small arms fire envelope to employ it effectively. Not desirable, I'm willing to bet. Maybe Rheinmetall's recoilless 30mm cannon could be a solution?
 

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Trident said:
With very light guns the UAV (which would still presumably need to be at least Hermes450-sized to accommodate it, ammunition and a targeting sensor, so not exactly cheap) might have to descend into the small arms fire envelope to employ it effectively. Not desirable, I'm willing to bet. Maybe Rheinmetall's recoilless 30mm cannon could be a solution?

On the other hand, UAVs are meant to go in harms way. They're expendable, in theory at least.
 

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I have always thought a LTA sniper platform would be great for counter insurgency.

Especially for countering road side bomb planting and eye in the sky ops remote controlled by boots on the ground.
 

quellish

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Mole said:
Those are all excellent options as well, but bullets or cannon shells, even smart shells that burst at a calculated distance, are still a lot cheaper and less likely to cause unwanted collateral damage.

1. I'd have to see real numbers on that, I think you may be greatly underestimating the cost per kill of a turretted gun. Guns have a lot of moving parts that need to be serviced, turretted guns even more so. In contrast, a missile like hellfire may have a high unit cost, but the lifecycle cost is very low. Ask a few Apache crews how much time they spend keeping the gun running vs. the hellfires.

2. Have you *seen* how much collateral a few rounds from an M230 or Bushmaster will do? For the platforms you're talking about, the ballistics dictate at least a rifle round (7.62, etc.), and the practicalities may dictate a fairly high rate of fire per burst. Either way, you're not using a scalpel.
 

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Hmmm, "grenade" in an RC-Helicopter platform? :)

Or RC-Car?

("Front-Lines:Fuel of War" reference if anyone cares :) )

Randy
 

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If you want something vaguely precision with a gun, perhaps those 20 or 25mm smart grenade rounds from the OICW weapons program, and now trial fielded as the XM25, may be a passable choice. It's already an existing gun platform that could be mated to a stabilized turret, and a simple integrated laser range finder gets you the ranging data to set the smart grenade. More targeted and smaller than a 40mm grenade launcher, almost in serial production in terms of ammo.


LTA (or even those hybrid near-LTA's) sniper is strangely intriguing as a lazily orbiting platform, but if you want to keep the damn thing from getting shot down by rifles, the range gets brutal. If you commit to terminal guidance of a round, you are not that far from conventional laser guided mortar rounds. Hrm, laser seeker gliding recoilless rifle round fired from an LTA with a laser designator, or a simpler gliding dropped munition dropped from altitude? Gives a different meaning to bomb truck and overwatch, a sort of netfire aspect.
 

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Or you could just pick them off with precision sniper rifle array more than one rifle and operator could make short work of them. Paint it blue and they would struggle to even see it at 600-1000m within PSG1 range.

IR sensors etc. etc. Just stick a litening pod on that sucker!

I think some blokes with AKs would have a job hitting it before they were taken down with precision sniper rounds.

Make it cheap enough and it could be fairly disposable.

Fit it with a chute encase they do hit it and it could be recovered patched and reinflated.
 

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An aerostat mounted sniping system might also be something worth considering.
 

bazz

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Grey Havoc said:
An aerostat mounted sniping system might also be something worth considering.

I would have thought an aerostat sniping system moored at a base would foobar the day of any insurgents attempting a mortar attack.

The only question is would it be stable enough?
 

ouroboros

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Aerostat stability and position keeping would be somewhat difficult, nevermind the deployment issues to an FOB. Perhaps that electric quadrotor on a extension cable idea may have more legs, in term of stability and having an overhead sensor keeping an eye out. The tradeoff is power consumption, compared to the difficulty to deploy an aerostat (helium?)(maybe hot air running off a microturbine's exhaust, with the microturbine providing power to fans for stationkeeping?)
 

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