Robotic Weapons Systems Give Choppers Cover

A new robotic weapon system will help protect helicopters when under fire. How long will it before robot-first militaries are more commonplace than not?

For militaries across the world helicopters have become an important part of their infrastructure. Whether during wartime, humanitarian crises or peacetime operations, helicopters can navigate to areas other fast movers just can’t. However, like almost all systems the helicopter has a fatal flaw: it is incredibly vulnerable to attack, particularly from RPGs and small arms during take off and landing.

For most militaries the helicopter’s vulnerability means that each chopper has to fly with a significant escort, increasing the cost of each sortie. While that may have been standard procedure in the past, a new robotic weapon system is looking to protect helicopters by arming them to the teeth.

Built by Buke Airborne Systems, the Robotic Weapon System (RWS) is a concealable gunnery system that was adapted from a land-based model. Featuring a 25mm machine gun that can fire armor piercing and air burst munitions, the RWS can pop off 2,000 rounds in a single load.  To compliment its already fearsome weaponry the RWS is mounted on a 6-axis pedestal giving it an incredibly free range of motion.

Although munitions are one thing, all weapon systems require an aiming system to be truly effective. In the case of the Duke’s RWS the new gunnery mechanism comes equipped with a multi-spectral vision system allowing it to target enemies day or night.

Controlled by a helicopter’s pilot through a tablet interface the RWS’s engineers claim the machine will not interfere with normal flight operations and, in fact, can be jettisoned from the aircraft if needed.

While the RWS is no Terminator, it is another step towards the roboticization of military operations. In the coming years more semi- and fully autonomous systems will come online, transforming militaries in ways that were unimaginable a few decades ago. Does the replacement of soldiers and human decision makers actually make a difference in the field? Are robot-first armies a better alternative to their human-first counterparts? In the coming decades, I’m sure we’ll find out.   

Image and Video Courtesy of Duke Airborne Systems