In video games such as the Command & Conquer and StarCraft series, players defend their bases by quickly building defenses seemingly out of nowhere. Now, the US Army wants to see about turning that into a reality.
The Army, along with troops from 14 other countries, recently kicked off an exercise in the Texas scrub dubbed Network Integration Evaluation 16.1. A variety of remote controlled and otherwise easily assembled perimeter defenses were among many new technologies on display during the practice sessions.
Seen in these videos, the turrets sprout from standard-sized shipping containers and lightweight trailers. They feature powerful cameras, deadly Javelin anti-tank missiles and heavy .50-caliber M-2 machine guns.
Video: Joseph Trevithick
"Remotely-controlled weapons systems have drastically reduced the number of soldiers needed for perimeter security at an expeditionary base camp here," reads an Army news article on the new weapons. The article continues:
"Every soldier I have assigned to securing the perimeter is one I don't have that can execute support missions," said Lt. Col. Raphael Heflin, commander, 142nd Combat Service Support Battalion, or CSSB, 1st Armored Division.
At a conventional combat outpost, it takes four to six soldiers doing eight- or 12-hour shifts to man one weapons system on the perimeter, he said.
Using relatively new remote control weapons systems, he said, pointing to a series of unmanned, weaponized towers at the edge of the razor wire, two soldiers inside the base camp tactical operation center can do the security work once done by 10.
Each manned tower can easily accommodate guns and a half-dozen soldiers. The Army article also details the features of these pop-up guard posts:
The systems, including the expeditionary towers atop which they're mounted, are known as containerized weapons systems, he said.
One expeditionary tower "can be put together by six soldiers in less than an hour, with minimal training," Scott said. When it's time to pack up and leave, everything fits neatly back inside the container.
While just about any gun system can be mounted on the tower, the two Scott pointed out were fitted with a Browning M-2 50-caliber machine gun and a 338[-caliber] Lapua sniper rifle.
Video: Joseph Trevithick
This is hardly the first time the Army has experimented with advanced base defenses. At an earlier NIE event four years ago at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the ground combat branch brought out the so-called Combat Outpost Surveillance and Force Protection System, or COSFPS.
Nicknamed the Kraken, the system combined radars, cameras and gunshot detecting microphones with two remote-controlled weapon mounts. Two years later, the Army sent the first COSFPS container to Afghanistan.
After seeing the difficulties troops faced in deadly Taliban attacks like the one on a small American outpost at Wanat in 2008, the ground combat branch was painfully aware of the need for improved defenses in even the most remote locations. The new Containerized Weapon System is a clear descendant of the earlier equipment.
And the equipment featured in the mock battles in Texas could become standard kit available across the Army. "Unlike standard NIEs, NIE 16.1 is the final proof of concept for Army Warfighting Assessments," the service's Training and Doctrine Command noted in a statement.
Starting in 2017, the ground combat branch will use these new, large assessment exercises to figure out what America's premier land forces will look like a decade from now and beyond. If that near future includes pop-up defenses, we suggest the Army adopt this as its new theme song.