The Netherlands armed
forces are equipping 17 of their Thales-supplied Bushmaster mine-resistant
ambush-protected (MRAP) infantry mobility vehicles, used in Afghanistan,
with Raven R-400 stabilized remote weapon stations.
The order represents the
first sale of the Raven R-400 system, known in the U.S. military
as the M101 Crows (common remotely operated weapon station), to
a NATO country.
Raven/Crows is produced
by an industry team comprised of Australian-based Electro-Optic
Systems Holdings Limited (EOS) and U.S.-based Recon Optical (Barrington,
Photo: Royal Netherlands
The contract for the Netherlands
was announced this week and was preceded by extensive testing in
the customer nation.
According to Dr Ben Greene,
CEO of the Australian company, the contract -- worth A$5.8 million
($5 million) has been awarded to EOS by Thales which is acting as
the prime contractor for the Dutch Bushmaster program. EOS will
fulfill the contract within 60 days using production facilities
in Australia and the U.S., says Greene.
As part of this agreement,
EOS has awarded Recon Optical a $2.2 million production contract
to supply 17 stabilized mounts from its Illinois facility, the U.S.
EOS, which has recently built
U.S.-based production facilities in Tucson, Arizona, provides the
fire control and sensor components that enhance the accuracy and
provide remote operation of the weapon system.
This allows the Raven/Crows
system to be operated safely from within the ballistic armor protection
offered by the Bushmaster vehicle. The soldier is no longer exposed
to hostile fire, inclement weather or other hazardous conditions
normally associated with operating a pintle-mounted weapon system
on a vehicle, Recon Optical says.
The Raven/Crows system can
accommodate a variety of small-caliber (5.56-mm and 7.62-mm) machine
guns, the Browning M2 .50-cal heavy machine gun (which will be used
on the Netherlands Bushmaster vehicles) and the Mk 19 40-mm automatic
A Raven/Crows system
seen integrated on a Netherlands Bushmaster vehicle during field
testing. Starting in August, this configuration will enter service
with Dutch forces in Afghanistan. Photo: Royal Netherlands Army
The U.S. Army has contracted
over 560 units to EOS and Recon Optical for use in Operation Iraqi
Freedom, the U.S. company says. For the U.S. program, Recon acts
as the prime contractor.
Australia is using the same
weapon system in Afghanistan after having ordered it in 2006, adds
According to Dennis Healy,
senior vice president and general manager of Recon Optical's force
protection technologies business, reports from the users in Iraq
"suggest that the system's thermal capabilities also enhance the
soldiers' ability to identify improvised explosive devices."
Greene says that the Netherlands
order is of "huge strategic importance" to EOS because it represents
a breakthrough in the European NATO market. It follows hard on the
heels of another success by EOS, which was a sale (announced May
30) of Raven/Crows systems to an unidentified Asian country, worth
up to A$ 50 million (A$ 25 million now, A$ 25 million in 2008),
for completion by 2010.
"It is the first open procurement
by a NATO country of this technology, and our first sale of any
kind to a NATO country. It signals EOS' market entry into the NATO
and European markets. The award was made after an international
competition, and extensive testing and qualification by the Netherlands
In the Netherlands itself,
there may be a follow-on order in the offing as most of the country's
200 Boxer 8x8 armored vehicles (ordered last year from a German-Netherlands
industry consortium) will also need to be equipped with a remote
But the main prize is the
U.S. Army's follow-on multi-year order for remote weapon systems,
for which EOS has put in a Crows-based bid through Recon. A decision
is expected as early as August.
Greene says that the market
for remote weapon systems is "one of the fastest-growing markets
for military technology," with orders approaching $300 million in
value that are expected to be placed during this year for programs
in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
By 2014, the remote weapon
system market will exceed 12,000 units (A$ 4 billion) in contracts,
With this order, EOS and
Recon are breaking into an international market for remote weapon
systems that so far has been dominated by Kongsberg with its Protector-series
(of which over 2,000 have been ordered and 100/month are produced
to equip the U.S. Army's Stryker Brigades and armored vehicles in
eight other nations) as well as a growing number of other companies.
The latter include BAE Systems
Bofors, FN-Herstal, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, Oto Melara, Rafael, Rheinmetall,
Thales and others.
In the Netherlands army
configuration, the Raven/Crows system will have 500 rounds (12.7-mm)
ready to fire. Photo: Royal Netherlands Army
Currently, the Netherlands
Bushmaster vehicles (25 of which were ordered and delivered under
an urgent operational requirement last year, at a cost of Ã¢â€šÂ¬1
million [$1.37 million] per vehicle) are equipped with a pintle-mounted
7.62-mm FN-Herstal MAG machine gun.
The weapon mounts now ordered
are designated the EOS-SRWS by the Dutch (for EOS-supplied stabilized
remote weapon station) and will be configured with a laser rangefinder,
day sight and a thermal imaging camera to be able to observe and
fire in daylight as well as by night.
The ammunition box in the
Dutch configuration contains 500 rounds.
The first of these systems
are expected in the operational theater (Uruzgan province, southern
Afghanistan) as early as August, a statement from the Netherlands
defense ministry says.