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Background  —  CF  Remote Control Heavy Machine Gun  Project

The RCHMG Trials – a Claxon Blast from the OTO Melara ‘PA’ System
In October of 2006, the Canadian Forces Maritime Warfare Centre ran OTO Melara’s 12.7mm P.A. ‘Remote Controlled Heavy Machine Gun’ (RCHMG) through its paces aboard a Kingston-class MCDV. The 40mm ‘Boffin’ gun was unshipped and the Italian weapon station substituted for testing. The Navy intends the RCHMG to replace the pintle-mounted 12.7mm Browning M2HB machineguns on both Kingston class and Halifax class frigates. [1] The point of the CFMWC trials was to experiment with shipboard remotely controlled weapons stations while also ‘test-driving’ a new system, albeit one from a familiar supplier. [2]

OTO Melara’s  12.7mm P.A. is a navalized version of the company’s Hitrole remote weapons station (RWS) for use on AFVs. [3]  OTO claims that both systems are better protected than rival RWSs. The P.A. is also compact (allowing it to be mounted on small patrol boats,  right, with implications for new Orca class PCTs). Enclosuring the P.A. protects it but this comes at the cost of additional weight. [4]

Rival RWSs for RCHMG – Rafael’s Mini-Typhoon
Leading the naval RWS field was the Mini-Typhoon from Israel which has been adopted by Australia [5], the USN (Mk 49 Mod 0 Gun Weapon System) and is being considered by New Zealand. Many observers considered the Mini-Typhoon a front-runner for RCHMG since this system is a maritime version of the CF’s Protected Weapon Station as mounted on TLAVs.  But,  PWS may be in trouble since the CF chose a rival RWS for the APV.

The RWS for the RG-31 Armoured Patrol Vehicles is Kongsberg’s M151 Protector. The navalized Sea Protector version (right) is somewhat  late into the fray.  For reasons of commonality alone, DND must be at least considering this design. A Sea Protector, like other RCHMG possibilites is armed with a Browning M2 but can also mount a 40mm automatic grenade launcher.  An AGL was not a RCHMG requirement but adds flexibility to close-in defence. Perhaps it is being considered.

[1] For the CFMWC trials, the OTO Melara P.A. replaced the Bofors gun on the foredeck. Probably this was just a convenient location for tests rather than the planned final siting for the MCDV’s RCHMG. No doubt, the two RCHMGs for the frigates will be on their afterdecks.
[2] OTO Melara supplied the 76mm/60 Super Rapide main guns for the TRUMP-modernization of the Tribal class destroyers (earlier, they had also supplied 105mm L5 pack howitzers to the Army). As for ‘P.A.’ (for Power Assisted turret), OTO has used this acronym for years.
[3] Hitrole (and the larger 30mm Hitfact) were adopted for Rosomak (a Polish version of the 8x8 Patria AMV).  The ‘role’ in Hitrole stands for Remote Overhead, Light Electrical turret (being electrically-powered). The first P.A. user was Italian Customs (or Guardia di Finanza ).
[4] The P.A. weighs 220-to-260 kg depending upon configuration (210 kg with an AGL).  As a comparison, a Sea Protector weighs 135 kg.
[5] The Royal Australian Navy was quick  to adopt  remote weapons. The first was Rafael’s full-sized Typhoon (with 25mm M242 cannon) mounted on their Armidale class OPVs (Offshore Patrol Vessels). Mini-Typhoon can be thought of as a blend of that mount and the PWS.