Friday, September 27, 2002

The firing of this 50-caliber machine gun yesterday was controlled by Marines sitting before an 8-inch color monitor in a Humvee a few feet away.

Marines test gun system
from afar

The prototype allows gunners to fire
from out of harm's way

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Marines at Kaneohe Bay are testing a prototype remote gun system that is hoped to enhance protection of U.S. embassies overseas.

The EX-45 weapon system allows a gunner to sight and fire a variety of weapons using a remote television camera, Ashley Johnson, Marine Force Pacific science adviser, told reporters and a small audience of military personnel yesterday.

He described the experimental system as being "a powerful tool" that would give any commander the ability "to make snap decisions" since his operators would be able to see any target under any condition, in the day or at night.

"The EX 45 allows the gunner to detect, identify and engage (targets) at greater distance," Johnson said.

On a Navy warship it could be located on the bridge of a ship, Johnson said, giving its captain another way to better see any target.

Johnson said the gun system's camera has several different modes that run from a total stealth operation at night where only the gunner can see the target to intense spotlights to disorient and deter any threat.

Pfc. Jud Poulter, a member of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment, was one of the first Marines to test the system for the first time yesterday at Kaneohe Bay's Ulupau Crater firing range.

Sitting before an 8-inch color monitor in a Humvee located a few feet away from the .50-caliber machine gun, Poulter, 23, was told that he could easily control the machine gun using two "joysticks."

His right hand would control the video camera. He could pan and zoom in on any target located about 2,000 feet downrange. His left hand would control both the laser, which would lock in the distance for the gun system, and the trigger.

Only several feet of coaxial cable separated Poulter and the video camera and the cradle that held the machine gun. However, Johnson said using fiber optics, there would be no limit as to where the gun and the camera could be located.

Poulter said all he had to do was place the target "in the cross hairs" and press the trigger.

"It was easy," said Poulter. "It didn't take me more than five minutes to learn the system."

Coast Guard Cmdr. Mike Cosenza, who attended yesterday's demonstration, said he likes the fact that it would keep a gunner "out of the elements" and out of harm's way. He noted that he could see it being used on 87-foot and 110-foot Coast Guard patrol boats, which already are armed with .50-caliber machine guns.

"But it's yet to be tested as a moving platform," Cosenza said.

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