Army plans new competition for weapons system contract; Northrop Grumman and EOS Technologies to collaborate.

The Army plans to launch a new competition for a…

The Army plans to launch a new competition for a system that allows soldiers to operate weapons from inside protected vehicles, a program that has already generated about $2 billion in revenue for the current manufacturer.

Northrop Grumman has announced it will team with EOS Technologies, an Arizona firm that is part of an Australian holding company, to pursue the program, in hopes of building what is known as the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station — a system that allows soldiers to aim and fire their machine guns using a video monitor and joystick inside a vehicle.

Norwegian firm Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace in August 2007 won the last CROWS contract, originally planned as a $1 billion deal. At the time, it had beaten out Barrington, Ill.-based Recon Optical, which had teamed with EOS on an initial order.

Richard G. Audette, the Army’s deputy project manager for soldier weapons, said the service originally planned to buy no more than 6,500 systems.

“We all thought that was going to be more than enough to fill the Army’s needs,” he said.

But the program has snowballed, and the Army has actually bought about 10,000 of the systems. Audette expects that under the new contract, the Army will buy around 8,000 more for existing vehicles — though the Army is still weighing an official decision on how many to purchase. He acknowledged the total number could grow beyond 18,000.

CROWS has been used on more than a dozen types of vehicles thus far, and Audette said he expects that number to increase. While the deployed systems are roughly split between Afghanistan and Iraq, the proportion going to Afghanistan will grow.

Source: Majorie Censer for The Washington Post.

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