> our title:

From Remotely-Operated Weapons to Robot Guns

> original title:

Robot Guns Guard the Borders of Some Countries, and More Might Follow Their Lead

(Source: Offiziere CH; posted April 12, 2016)

by Darien Cavanaugh

In 2007 Israel began deploying remote-operated sentry guns along the border fence separating it from the Gaza Strip. That same year South Korea announced it had plans to install sentry guns along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the no-man’s-land dividing it from North Korea. Those plans were delayed for a few years, but North Korea did begin using sentry guns along the DMZ in 2010. The use of these remote-operated weapons systems has stirred some controversy, and it’s also proved to be lethally effective.

From Remote Weapon System to Sentry

Most sentry guns currently on the market are basically adaptations of remote weapon stations (RWSs) like Kongsberg’s Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS) and Rafael’s Samson. CROWS and Samsons can be outfitted with an array of machine guns, such as the M249, M240, M2, MK-19, MK-47, M134 and the M230LF, as well as automatic grenade launchers and hard- or soft-launch missiles like the Griffin, Javelin, Stinger and TOW. They can also be equipped with non-lethal weapons like smoke grenade launchers and laser warning systems.

RWSs are highly versatile and can be used on naval ships or fixed platforms on land, such as pillboxes or towers. They’re also mounted to Humvees, Strikers, Pandurs and numerous other vehicles. RWS are currently in common use, in one form or another, by the U.S. military and those of dozens of other countries.

The primary benefit of an RWS is that it allows operators to survey the terrain around them, recognize potential threats, and target and engage verified enemies while remaining within the relative security of a pillbox or armored vehicle rather than being exposed in a turret.

Visual information is fed to the operator via cameras, infrared sensors, thermal imagers, laser range finders or other sensors mounted with the system. The operator monitors the information on a screen and reacts, if necessary, using a control panel. Such systems have been referred to, sometimes derogatorily, as “a video game with real guns.”

As a report from Defense Industry Daily noted, the success of localized RWS raised an obvious question: “Why does the operator have to be so close?” For Israel and South Korea at least, the answer was “no reason at all.” The main difference between RWS and the sentries deployed by Israel and South Korea is simply a matter of distance. With most RWS, the operator is only a few feet away from the weapon system they control and within firing range of the enemy.

The people operating the robotic guns like those guarding the Gaza fence and the DMZ are sometimes several hundred yards away. They’re basically using RWS with extension cords.

Israel Led the Way in Deploying Automated Sentry Guns Along Borders

Israel began constructing a security fence around Gaza in 1994, soon after the signing of the Oslo I Accord in September of 1993. The fence itself greatly reduced the number of attacks in Israel by members of Hamas and other militant organizations. However, attempts to infiltrate the border, by militants and civilians, continued—with periods of great frequency.

When Israel unilaterally withdrew its forces and settlers from Gaza in 2005, it gave Palestinian militants greater mobility within the territory. The fence became the only physical line of defense between Gaza and Israel. It was susceptible to breaches and militants could easily fire rockets over it and send sniper rounds through it. Instead of sending its soldiers out on patrol in a hostile territory, Israel chose to keep them in reserve on their side of the fence and turn to new technology to help deter attacks.

The new technology included the automated Sentry Tech weapons system, a modified version of the Samson RWS manufactured by the Israeli firm Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) mounted Sentry Techs armed with .50 cal/12.7mm machine guns to hardened towers every few kilometers along the length of 60-meter Gaza fence. Retractable domes on top of the towers conceal and protect the sentries when they are not in use.

The sentry towers are linked together and connected to a command center by fiber optics. From there, operators — who are exclusively female IDF soldiers aged 19 to 20 — can draw information from cameras, long range electro-optical sensors, ground sensors, manned aircraft, and overhead drones, as well as radar. Women operate the sentry guns in order to avoid the cultural “taboo” of risking their lives in combat. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the Offiziere website.