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New remotely controlled Browning M2 machine gun in service with Ukrainian forces

The 5th Separate Assault Brigade of Ukraine has incorporated an innovation into its arsenal: an automated turret equipped with a Browning M2. This new addition was showcased in a video at the beginning of this year, 2024. Following the rise of drones, we may now be witnessing the emergence of a new unmanned system.
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A remotely controlled Browning M2 in service with Ukrainian forces (Picture source: X account of Ukrainian Front)

Since the advent of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, there has been a race to develop various Unmanned systems by different manufacturers and countries in the defense sector. Ukraine is not lagging; its production of UAVs has greatly increased recently, and there are plans to further increase production in 2024. However, their efforts are not solely focused on the deployment of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles but also the development of other Unmanned systems like USVs (Unmanned Surface Vehicles), UGVs (Unmanned Ground Vehicles), and here, autonomous turrets.

The main strength of this automated turret lies in its ability to operate with minimal human intervention. This means that soldiers can focus on other aspects of the battle while maintaining sustained firepower. The turret can be programmed to monitor and automatically respond to threats, thus reducing risks to human operators. This is crucial in preserving the lives of operators, an essential component in the Ukrainian conflict, as human casualties accumulate and both belligerents struggle to replenish their ranks.

The Browning M2 is a .50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine gun introduced in the United States in 1938, known for its robustness and versatility on the battlefield. It can be operated by a crew ranging from one to four members, including a team leader, gunner, assistant gunner, and ammunition bearer. Of course, if the process is automated, it requires far fewer operators. This weapon system operates on a recoil mechanism and is air-cooled, which allows it to maintain high operational efficiency.

The Browning M2 weighs 84 pounds (about 38.1 kg) and measures 65.13 inches (about 1.65 meters) in length. Its barrel alone weighs 24 pounds (about 10.9 kg) and measures 45 inches (about 1.14 meters). The barrel is equipped with eight right-hand grooves with a pitch of 15 inches (381 mm).

The machine gun can fire .50 caliber Browning ammunition (12.7 x 99 mm), with a basic vehicle mount load of 400 rounds. A hundred rounds in a magazine weigh about 35 pounds (16 kg). In terms of performance, the M2 can fire single shots, with a sustained rate of fire of less than 40 rounds per minute in bursts of five to seven shots. In rapid mode, it exceeds 40 rounds per minute, also in bursts of five to seven shots. The cyclic rate of fire is 450 to 550 rounds per minute.

The maximum range of the Browning M2 is 7,440 yards (about 6,800 meters), with a maximum effective range on an area target of 2,000 yards (about 1,830 meters) and on a point target (single shot) of 1,640 yards (about 1,500 meters).

Overall, the Browning M2 is an extremely powerful, adaptable, and reliable weapon, capable of meeting a variety of needs on the battlefield, from anti-aircraft defense to direct fire support. Making it into an automatic turret is therefore quite interesting.

The introduction of the automated turret with the Browning M2 by Ukraine also raises questions about the future of warfare. The robotization and automation of the battlefield are expanding trends, and their use in active conflicts could redefine the rules of military engagement.


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