Home' Defence Technology Review : DTR MAR 2015 Contents 31
DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY REVIEW | ISSUE 07 | MAR 2015
ONE OF THE FOUNDATIONS of armoured vehicle design has
long been the manned turret. Vehicle crews rely on the situational
awareness from observing from the turret to provide them with
an edge on the battlefield.
However, technology has made unmanned turrets, remotely
controlled by crews embedded within the vehicle hull, technically
feasible and a practical reality. Indeed, the Australian Army
already has experience with a simple form of unmanned turret
through the machine gun-armed remote weapon systems
employed on ASLAV and Bushmaster. Given that the new Land
400 Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle (CRV) will be central to
Army operations for many years, it is essential to consider the
advantages of both turret types.
The primary logic behind unmanned turrets is enhanced crew
protection. The turret is reduced to a mount for the weapon
systems, ammunition and sensors which provides a considerable
weight saving over equivalent manned turrets.
With all crew now seated inside the hull, the area of
vulnerability for personnel casualties is reduced, enabling vehicle
designers to focus protective measures on this smaller crew
compartment. Removing the need for a turret basket provides
further weight and space savings which can be converted into
increased load, improved protection or reduced vehicle mass.
It is indisputable that unmanned turrets enable significantly
enhanced crew survival by reducing the area of the vehicle
containing personnel with weight savings translated into better
However, armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) protection is a
multi-faceted consideration and any experienced crewman will
argue that improved situational awareness from standing in the
turret is central to survival.
With the choice of vehicle and turret
combinations for Army’s new Land
400 CRV a key capability aspect of
the project, a DTR correspondent
examines the merits and risks in
both manned and unmanned turrets.
An ASLAV-25 crew commander obser ves the ground ahead on
operations in Afghanistan. image: ADF
RIGHT: The Oto Melara
30mm Overhead Weapon
Station weighs 1,650kg at
STANAG Level 3 protection
– at least 1,000kg less than
equivalent manned turrets.
AFV PROTECTION IS
CONSIDERATION AND ANY
WILL ARGUE THAT
STANDING IN THE TURRET IS
CENTRAL TO SURVIVAL.
Unmanned turrets force the crew to rely on periscopes and other
sensors which do not offer the same holistic situational awareness.
The ability of the human brain to process what the eyes see and
make decisions accordingly has no technological peer.
The role of the CRV is to conduct the reconnaissance/counter
reconnaissance battle and by virtue of this information is king.
Situational awareness through gaining information will provide
one element of protection, but it is, most importantly, the essence
to the mission with which the CRV will be tasked. The CRV is,
indeed, spoken of as a battlefield node, but if the crew secured in
the hull are unaware, the node becomes of significantly less value.
SITUATIONAL AWARENESS AND CREW PROTECTION
History has repeatedly taught AFV crews that survival requires
trading off exposure for enhanced observation, a method denied
by unmanned turrets which rely on technical solutions such as
independent commander’s sighting systems. Other solutions
include hull-mounted cameras, which are already being employed
to address AFV blind-spot vulnerabilities. Technology will
continue to improve these systems whereas a crewman scanning
from a manned turret can expect little enhancement for the naked
eye scanning with binoculars.
The hull seating position made possible by an unmanned
turret does provide an ergonomically superior solution for a
crew station, particularly for mounting additional screens for
simultaneous monitoring of multiple sensor feeds. Ergonomics
increase in importance as more systems compete for space inside
modern AFVs. A manned turret is a cramped space, whereas
design of crew stations for unmanned turrets suffer fewer space
constraints and none of the limitations of a rotating turret basket.
This advantage is further emphasised by the potential to more
readily accept mid-life upgrades and enhancements, particularly
with regard to internal fitout.
As the unmanned turret provides no opportunity to stand in an
open hatch, crew (commander and gunner) survivability against
mine and improvised explosive device blast is also enhanced if
they are obliged to sit in blast attenuating seating and secured by
From a future growth perspective, the case appears compelling
for unmanned turrets. The catch however is twofold: technical and
capability risk. Technical risk is straight-forward: manned turrets
are a proven legacy system with a long history and Army knows
how to use them. Although unmanned turrets are now integrated
on a number of AFVs, those mounting heavier weapons (20mm
and above) do not have extensive operational histories and Army
certainly has no experience with these larger systems.
THE HULL SEATING
POSITION DOES PROVIDE
FOR A CREW STATION,
MONITORING OF MULTIPLE
In addition, unless the candidate CRV being proposed has
been designed for unmanned turrets, extensive modifications
will likely be required, introducing further risk. Even unmanned
turrets on exemplar AFVs such as the Puma tracked infantry
fighting vehicle are unlikely to satisfy Army’s requirements in
their present form, requiring further modification and therefore
further risk. Unmanned turrets also offer little redundancy for
the reliance on vehicle sensors, whilst rectifying ammunition
stoppages or other weapon issues are more complicated.
Capability risk is potentially more serious for Army. At a
fundamental level, armoured operations and field craft is
essentially the same regardless of the AFV. Experienced crew only
require a short conversion course to competently operate a new
vehicle. There is devil in the detail here: no two vehicles operate
exactly the same and there will always be unique characteristics
Links Archive DTR FEB 2015 DTR APR 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page