India has developed new Remotely Weapon Station armed with NSVT 12.7mm machine gun

India’s Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has developed a new remotely operated weapon station (ROWS) armed with the Russian-designed NSVT 12.7 mm heavy machine gun (HMG), according to the OFB’s portfolio.

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Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) has unveiled a Remote Controlled Weapon Station (RCWS) armed with a 12.7mm machine at Aero India in 2017. (Picture source

The new ROWS, which is simply designated RCWS (Remote Control Weapon Station), broke its cover at the DefExpo 2020 defense show held in Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh, India) in early February. The unmanned combat station was specifically designed to carry a combat-ready NSVT HMG, which is mounted on a two-axis stabilizer. “The RCWS can be used to engage both ground and aerial targets, with keeping its operator safe from threats,” says the OFB. Originally, the station was intended for the upgraded Arjun Mk. IA main battle tank (MBT). The module has also been configured for the Arjun armored recovery vehicle and the C-431 patrol ship of the Indian Coast Guard; however, it can be installed on a wide range of ground and surface carriers. The RCWS works in both day and night modes and is equipped with a laser rangefinder. “An automatic target tracker and a remote arming device can be additionally mounted,” says the portfolio

The OFB has developed the RCWS in conjunction with India’s company Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).

According to the OFB, the organic armament suite of the new unmanned station can be reinforced with an anti-tank missile, machinegun, or automatic grenade launcher. “The module can be employed during low-intensity conflicts,” says the portfolio, adding that the RCWS had already passed through firing tests at sea.

The RCWS seems to have been developed under the ‘Make in India’ program — almost all manufacturers of modern armored vehicles offer their products with unmanned combat stations and India does not appear to be an exception. However, further fielding of the RCWS is not defined. The Indian Army now operates combat vehicles with traditional manned turrets; the Arjun Mk. IA is probably the first Indian vehicle to get a ROWS, but the deliveries of the MBT to the units will start in the early 2020s.

India is also reported to have imported marinized unmanned combat stations from Israel: since 2016, the Asian country has been negotiating the acquisition of 747 Elbit Systems’ RCWSs armed with 12.7 mm HMGs (probably M2HBs, but Elbit also offers its combat stations with the NSVT machinegun). India was planning to directly import 136 ROWSs and produce the remaining 611 modules in-house.

The RCWS is the first Indian attempt to enter the global market for remotely control weapon systems. At the DefExpo 2020 show, the OFB did not provide any detailed information about the new combat station; however, it is believed to carry a traditional sensor suite with a daylight TV camera, thermal imager, and laser rangefinder. Despite the fact that neither OFB nor BEL is a strong ROWS market player, the RCWS might find its customers. The station seems to have a well-balanced cost-effectiveness ratio and probably offers almost all modern capabilities at a decent price.