The modern battlefield brings a host of threats, and a fighting force must be able to adapt quickly to neutralise them. Traditionally, turret-mounted weapons are not easy to reconfigure in the face of a new threat, but RIwP is changing the rules. Richard Allen-Miles, head of international business development at Moog Space and Defense Group, talks about the company’s new weapons platform.
The ever-changing nature of the modern battlefield brings many challenges to the preparation of a fighting force for maximum efficiency and effectiveness. Fighting vehicles need to be able to navigate many different types of terrain and, ultimately, engage myriad potential threats. Adaptability is their most important characteristic and often the hardest to achieve.
Until now, that versatility has often been compromised by the fixed configuration of a vehicle’s remote weapon station (RWS), but the new reconfigurable integrated weapons platform (RIwP) delivers a scalable and flexible remote turret that goes above and beyond what a traditional RWS can offer.
RIwP, designed by global defence manufacturer Moog, provides a proven platform with multiple weapon options to guarantee tailored overmatch and improved survivability in every combat situation. Equipped with high-performance target acquisition technology and unmatched stabilisation accuracy, it provides precision medium-calibre and indirect-fires lethality, with more firepower than most current combat systems, while also being light enough for a tactical vehicle.
“It is its reconfigurability that makes RIwP so suited to today’s fighting vehicles,” says Richard Allen-Miles, head of international business development at Moog Space and Defense Group. “These vehicles must be flexible and adaptable enough to meet – and overcome – whatever threat or challenge confronts them. RIwP is designed to let warfighters achieve weapon overmatch no matter what the threat.”
Options for engagement
Moog has more than 70 years of experience as a designer, manufacturer and integrator of precision control components and systems. Its high-performance systems are used to control military and commercial aircraft, satellites and space vehicles, launch vehicles, missiles, automated industrial machinery, and marine and medical equipment.
RIwP represents the combination of all Moog’s engineering expertise and experience in the defence sector, which has allowed it to surmount many obstacles in pursuit of such a versatile solution. “The key challenges were to develop a weapons platform that was small, agile and reconfigurable but to do so while incorporating components and subsystems normally found on a traditional turret,” Allen- Miles remarks. “Reload under armour and manual override of the azimuth and elevation axis drives are examples of this high-level functionality and this is all achieved in a system that will fit on top of vehicles as small as a protected mobility vehicle.”
The range of potential configurations is staggering. For a counter-drone mission, for example, one could have a 30mm gun to support proximity-fused rounds for very short-range engagements, a weapon sight of choice for target identification and four to six ground-to-air counter drone missiles for short-range engagements, as well as a coaxial machine gun as a secondary weapon for self-protection.
A ground-based air defence mission could use similar effectors and sights but with the additional option for increased capacity and capability of multiple ground-to-air short-range missiles for extended range engagements of fixed-wing or rotary wing aircraft, as well as drones.
For an anti-armour mission, RIwP could incorporate a larger 30mm/MK44 cannon for extended range engagements, again utilising the weapon sight of choice for target identification and an anti-armour missile for extended range engagements. “Alternatively, with its capacity to host multiple missiles at the ready, RIwP can be configured to a multi-missile anti-armour platform, with four to six anti-tank guided missiles, a 30mm gun and associated weapons sight, and coax machine gun,” Allen-Miles explains. “Similar configuration mixes could be used to support reconnaissance or scout missions and even static base defence. Lethal effectors can also be replaced with non-lethal effectors to limit escalation or casualties.”
Given the vast array of potential configurations, Moog had to ensure that changing between them would be as simple as possible, considering the myriad different direct and indirect fire weapons that its customers might want to use. “Developing the suite of adaption technologies and mechanical interfaces was key to this,” Allen-Miles says. “It also required an intimate software-l evel understanding of how missiles communicate with fire control systems. Our long pedigree in this area enables us to offer unmatched firing performance whatever the weapons configuration.”
Plugging the capability gap
Capacity and flexibility are what makes RIwP stand out from other RWS systems. “Capacity is key,” says Allen-Miles. “A user who buys RIwP is acquiring the ability to host whatever weapons they need to, now and in the future. Imagine trying to mount a four-missile Hellfire pod on any other RWS.”
“RIwP fills a genuine capability gap,” he adds. “It delivers warfighter protection in an endlessly reconfigurable format and therefore offers more firepower pound for pound than anything else available.”
To develop such a flexible platform, Moog engaged with many partners in the land forces community to define the capability gap. This in-depth process of consultation identified two key aspirations: to create a weapons platform that offers a warfighter protection under amour to mitigate the risks associated with leaving a vehicle to reload weapons, and to offer weapons capability that assured constant overmatch regardless of the nature of the threat or the mission.
“Moog has been providing turret control and stabilisation systems for many of the world’s most widely used weapons systems for decades, so we understand at a fundamental level what it takes to make a weapons platform or turret perform at its best,” Allen-Miles explains. “We know all the forces, disturbances and considerations that must be taken into account when designing the actuation system.”
Furthermore, Moog is well aware that modern military vehicles and their crews are increasingly exposed to multiple and evolving threats and, consequently, can be called upon to fulfil many different roles – whether it be counter insurgency, counter-drone (C-UAS), short-range air defence (SHORAD), anti-armour or any other task.
“We felt that even the best weapons platforms do not easily allow a vehicle to adapt to these differing roles and threats – they are, in effect, one trick ponies,” Allen- Miles remarks. “We designed RIwP to address this shortcoming: a weapons platform that matched or exceeded the firing performance of the very best weapons platforms, but one that also allowed the users to quickly change out the weapons sets.”
Drawing on its intimate knowledge of gun control systems, Moog designed RIwP to offer unparalleled accuracy no matter the weapons configuration. At the same time, however, the company recognised that by solving one problem it must not create another, namely that of multiple different user interfaces. So, it designed RIwP to present users with the same fire control system and user interface regardless of the weapons set.
“The complex, hybrid nature of modern conflicts means that a vehicle, unit or formation may need to overcome manned or unmanned air assault, infantry attack, medium and heavy armour or insurgent attacks,” says Allen-Miles. “RIwP enables a vehicle to meet each challenge and enter each engagement equipped with the weapons configuration necessary in order to overcome it, instead of being constrained by the weapons set originally installed on the vehicle, as is the case with all other RWS and weapons platforms.”
Evolution follows revolution
RIwP is quick and easy to reconfigure for trained technicians at the lowest military maintenance formation desired, reducing the need to return to depot or the manufacturer, and is versatile in ways that other RWS platforms are not. It is no surprise, then, that is has already attracted significant interest.
Leonardo DRS has opted to supply 28 RIwP turrets for the US Army’s Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense Increment 1 (M-SHORAD Inc. 1) programme, in a configuration that integrates multiple kinetic effectors including the XM914 30mm cannon and M240 7.62mm machine gun, along with Stinger and Longbow Hellfire missiles. It also features L3Harris’ MX-GCS sighting systems and Moog’s own Hellfire missile launcher.
“No matter what the weapons configuration, the RIwP cupola and associated internal sub-components are the same,” Allen-Miles remarks. “One design, one set of spares, 85% commonality. And because the user interface is the same no matter what the configuration, a user trained on RIwP can effectively fire any direct or indirect weapon.”
“We have interest from land forces all over the globe, ranging from C-UAS and air defence communities to combat brigade weapons systems users, logistical planners, and proponents of commonality and modularity within a host of armed forces,” he continues.
Moog is planning to continue working with military and government partners to explore new technologies, including making RIwP compatible with new sensor and effector technologies, equipping AI capability to allow human-in-the-loop (HITL) semi-autonomous operation and, ultimately, positioning it as a weapons platform uniquely suited to robotics and unmanned vehicle applications. As the rules of the battlefield change, RIwP is well positioned to stay firmly ahead of the game.