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Friday, January 1, 2010

BAE Remote Guardians Join Osprey Fleet

By Richard Whittle

Military | Mission Equipment

The U.S. Marine Corps’ MV-22B Osprey finally has a gun that can lay down 360 degrees of suppressive fire, filling a gap in the tiltrotor troop transport’s capabilities that was criticized by some in 2007, when the aircraft first deployed to a combat zone in Iraq. When the Marines began the Osprey’s second combat deployment this past November by flying 10 MV-22Bs into Afghanistan, five new BAE Systems Remote Guardian System belly guns went with them. Besides a GAU-17 7.62mm mini-gun (designated GAU-2B by the Air Force), the Remote Guardian includes a turret and sensor that can be installed in the bottom of the fuselage. A gunner inside the aircraft controls the computerized weapon remotely using a device resembling a video game controller.

The Remote Guardian’s computerized fire control also ensures against firing into the Osprey’s landing gear or its 38-foot-diameter rotors, which tilt forward like propellers and extend below the fuselage when the V-22 flies in airplane mode. The rotors are long enough that the Osprey has to tilt them up at least partially when making a rolling rather than vertical takeoff or landing. The Remote Guardian can also retract into the Osprey’s fuselage, reducing drag and allowing the crew to service the weapon in-flight if it jams. The guns were bought under an $8.05-million contract awarded to BAE in May 2008 by the U.S. Special Operations Command and funded by SOCOM and the Navy. The cost per gun was about $575,000, according to Ken McGraw, a spokesman for SOCOM, which bought seven for CV-22Bs flown by the Air Force Special Operations Command.

Capt. Craig Thomas, a Marine spokesman, said the Corps sent only five of the guns to Afghanistan because it bought only eight, and because the Remote Guardian is a “mission kit” that can be installed and removed as needed. Marine mechanics, assisted by a fleet support representative from BAE, will install and remove the guns, a job that takes about eight hours, “as the mission dictates,” Thomas said. “It’s a weight thing,” he added. The system weighs about 800 pounds. The new guns weren’t taken along when six of the seven CV-22Bs in the Air Force 8th Special Operations Squadron deployed to Iraq for three months, returning to Hurlburt Field, Fla., on Nov. 12, AFSOC spokeswoman Capt. Lisa Citino said via e-mail.

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