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Afghanistan Combat Drives Army Turret Modification

Sometimes it’s the little things that give U.S. warfighters the tactical advantage.

A clear example of that fact can be found in the latest modification to the Objective Gunner Protection Kit (OGPK), which is mounted atop various combat vehicles. Designated as the Objective Weapon Elevation Kit, the new modification equips warfighters with the capability to safely engage elevated targets while remaining in a protective posture within the OGPK.

Chris Vesper, an engineer at the U.S. Army Armament Research Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), outlined the project during the recent 27th Army Science Conference, held in Orlando, Fla., Nov. 29 – Dec. 2, 2010.

“We originally had the OGPK – Objective Gunner Protection Kit,” he explained. “With that kit, you could only shoot at 67 degrees of elevation. With the switch to Afghanistan there are a lot higher mountains and soldiers were getting shot at from above. We initially responded with our Overhead Cover [mod to the OGPK]. The soldiers said, ‘The Overhead Cover is amazing but we need to be able to return fire.’ So we came up with the Objective Weapon Elevation Kit.”

The kit consists of a bearing sleeve, pins and hardware, and a front shield extension against ground threats.

“It’s simple yet effective,” he said. “Soldiers love it, because it gives them the clearance on the backside of the weapon so that they can get that 80 degrees of freedom. Other reasons they like it so much is because it’s cheap. It’s readily available. And it’s very quick to manufacture. They had been cutting off the bottom of the M2 [.50 caliber machine gun] cradle and ‘welding on’ 5 ½ inches of steel to the bottom of the cradle – just torching it and welding it on. We saw pictures of that and realized that it wasn’t very safe, because with repeat firing it could cause cracks in the welds. So we came up with the safe solution of a bearing sleeve extension.”

“Now, when they know they are going past mountains they can put it on. But when they go back to post and are going through town they can easily slide it off and lower the weapon,” he added.

“’Generation II,’ which we are currently working on, is going to provide an automatic mechanical [weapon] lift with a thumb joystick,” he said. “It will raise and lower the weapon, as needed, on command. We’re still designing it right now, working with West Point – some interns we are working with right now – who came up with a hand crank design. We will be using that hand crank but we will be attaching a motor to it in our shop.”

Anticipating the common question of, “Why don’t they just leave it high [for 80 degrees freedom]?” he explained, “It’s because when you are shooting at lower targets the rear of the weapon would be above your head or right in front of your face. That’s the reason that if you know you are going through a town with shorter buildings you want to lower the weapon.”

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...