RWS on Strategy Page

Stryker Struggles With 60 Year Old Weapon (03/29/2005 entry)

Another Strategy Page posting on the Stryker, MO’s favorite 8-wheeled LAV:

American Stryker wheeled infantry vehicles are getting an upgraded version of the RWS (Remote Weapon System, a .50 caliber machine-gun that can be fired by an operator inside the vehicle.) The RWS is made by a Norwegian firm and, without the weapon, weighs 220 pounds. You can mount a machine-gun (usually .50 caliber) or an automatic 40mm grenade launcher on the RWS. While the troops have liked the RWS, this first intense combat use of the system has revealed problems. The extreme heat in Iraq would sometimes cause the system to freeze up. After several fixes, the problem finally went away. Although RWS is supposed to be able to fire accurately while the vehicle is moving, this often doesn’t work, especially when the Stryker is moving cross country.

This is a little ambiguous. The RWS is NOT motion-stabilized. This has been a criticism that many (including myself) have brought up since before the first Strykers were declared operational. Although the weapon can still be fired, while moving, there’s nothing to help steady the aim of the gunner as the vehicle bounces down the road or across the desert. I think this would be a major problem, as a moving vehicle is a safer vehicle during a battle. The driver is probably not going to stop in order to let the gunner get a good shot lined up.


While the troops liked the thermal sight on the RWS, they also found it difficult to use because of the low resolution. The RWS uses a less capable thermal sight than is found on other armored vehicles, and troops who have used the more capable thermal sights on the M-2 Bradley could not help but notice the difference. Troops also want a range finder. But the troops find much to like about the RWS. It is generally pretty accurate, especially with the daylight camera.

I’ve sat in a Stryker and played around a bit with the RWS. (See this post for pics, including a couple of the RWS controls and the view screen, plus some of the RWS itself (albeit with a dummy weapon installed.))

The screen clarity was pretty good (something I mentioned in my post) and controlling the RWS wasn’t too difficult. After a few seconds I was able to track pedestrians accurately as they walked by, and the zooms seemed pretty useful. I didn’t try out the IR settings, so I can’t comment on them at all.

But I’ve mentioned many times that the lack of stabilization has got to be a major pain. I’ve pointed out the CROWS in the past, not because I think we need that particular system but because it’s an RWS-like unit that incorporates motion stabilization.

Any Stryker soldiers out there have a comment?


  1. I’m going to suggest that if the Stryker were not a Stryker, it’s be a Bradley or an M1A1. In other words, it does the job that it was designed to do. It wasn’t designed to be a Bradley nor an MBT. It’s the same issue with the Hummer. The Soviet Navy solved it by puttng one of everything ont their ships. Nukes also had boilers. The carriers could launch torpedoes. You will never have a good military vehicle that fills every need and meets every necessity. You will only have half-assed ones that kinda do the job. Jeb Stuart’s horses didn’t pull arty for a reason.

  2. While the above points by Chuck may be true. It really is still no excuse to not motion stabilise the gun. I’m not talking bout a wind sensor etc. just a simple gyro-stabilised gun. One more reason I am thankful we are fighting such an enemy- just imagine if they acquired a more accurate AT weapon.

  3. I think you could stabilise it with software actually. Kind of like what the Maverick does. Have a processor constantly comparing the image from one frame to the next. Work out how much the image has jumped from the last time, look at the control inputs, and use the result to determine how to swivel the mount. It could be fooled by smoke and flashes but it would work most of the time and wouldn’t require any extra hardware, other than an IC or two for the tracking. Should be cheaper and simpler to install than gyros or accelerometers, but not as good. Would be a cost/benefit decision I bet. Anyway the point is I don’t think this is too difficult, but might require some R&D. Depends upon whether this sort of thing has been done before. I’m pretty sure it has, several times.

  4. That looks good except if I were them I’d try to get the profile of the RWS a bit lower. Otherwise it makes it easier to spot the tank over obstacles, hills and such. Also, what happens to any infantry walking next to the tank if it gets hit by a cannon round or RPG? Do they get double-whammied – hit by shrapnel from the incoming round and shrapnel from the exploding ERA tile? I sure hope not. It’s already difficult to walk behind an Abrams due to the high temperature exhaust, I’d hate to think it’d be dangerous to walk next to one too. (I’m guessing the covering on the tiles is designed to vaporize rather than fragment and hopefully the shockwave will disperse enough to cause only temporary damage.)

  5. I’m worried about the ERA tiles too, one would assume that the M1 would stay in front to handle the brunt of enemy fire while the infantry hangs back along with the M-2s or flank the enemy; but from what I’ve seen, the M-2s have a new new ERA package as well, where do they go now?

  6. Well the infantry can’t hang out behind an M1 very comfortably as the exhaust goes out the back and it’s rather hot. I would imagine that would make the sides a good place to be in order to use the tank as a shield for enemy fire. If the ERA tiles on the skirts create a hazard, then the only place to stand is going to be (1) in front – dangerous for various reasons, like the risk of being run over or hit by something ejected from the gun, etc. or (2) far away, where you can’t use the tank effectively as a shield. I’d be less worried about tiles which are mounted higher and tilted facing up, like those on most turrets. I don’t think the blast would be aimed at any infantry unless they were climbing on or riding on the vehicle. However, something pointing outwards at person-height could be a problem :I

  7. The reason that the RWS is tall is to allow for a full vertical elevation and for greater depression, nearly eliminating any deadspace around the vehicle and allowing the RWS to fire at multistoried buildings in an urban environment. The Russians failed to have systems that could do this in Grozny in 1994 and got decimated by top down attacks from upper stories that couldn’t be supressed by mounted weapon systems. It also lessens the chance of shooting someone in one of the hatches if they were to pop up at the wrong time.