Who Will Protect Machine Gun Operators in Georgian Armored Vehicles?
07 June, 2012

Why should we repeat American mistakes?


Military parade of Georgian Army held on 26 May presented all types of armored vehicles, including three versions of Didgori, two versions of HMMWV (armored and without armor), Cobra, Wolf, Ejder and infantry military vehicle Lazika. An attentive observer could notice that all the vehicles had armaments externalized on top of cabins. It’s a correct decision to an extent because plumes of burnt gunpowder generated during intensive shooting do not fill cabin insides and the crew is saved from inhaling the poisonous gases. On the other hand, use of the externalized armament requires more efforts because the operator has to show half of his body out of the protected cabin space. Accordingly, unlike other crew members, head, chest and back of the machine gun operator are left vulnerable to enemy bullets. Although machine guns mounted on top of Didgori, Cobra and Wolf vehicles are more or less protected by towers made of armored plates, the operator still remains vulnerable from certain angles, especially from above, jeopardizing operator’s life in urban operations. Seriousness of the security risk has been fully appreciated by machine gun operators of the MIA special task force in Tskhinvali street fights during the August 2008 war.
About three months before the August war, the author of this article saw first-hand the necessity of having a proper protective cover for machine gun operators inside turret-mounted weapon stations. On 20 May 2008, a column of Georgian armored HMMWVs moving on one of Iraqi highways, sustained explosion of the IED planted near the right side of the road. Two resulting projectiles hit the first HMMWV on the right side. One of the projectiles bored a hole in the disc of the right tire, while the other pierced the armor of the front door and slightly harmed the crew inside. Concurrent shards pummeled the right side of the HMMWVs but the armor withstood. Most importantly, the machine gun operator in the tower survived. The wave of explosion just broke his finger. Had he been protected by Didgori or Wolf tower instead, his would have been killed without a doubt because IED pieces were flying on his head level. The operator was saved by extra reinforced glasses installed in the tower. The strikes indeed left clearly visible signs on the glasses.
After many such incidents on Iraqi roads, Pentagon understood it had to enhance level of security for HMMWV armor and especially machine gun operator. So why shall we repeat mistakes of Americans? Could not Delta already start thinking about affixing reinforced glasses to operator towers on Didgori, Cobra and Wolf armored vehicles to raise a level of their protection without obstructing the operator’s vision? There is another, more cardinal solution. Namely, Delta has already started to install remotely guided armed complexes on top of armored vehicles, which would resolve the problem of security for the operator of the tower because he would not be needed inside the tower any more. Instead, he would be seated inside the cabin together with other crew members and guide the machine gun located in the tower remotely. Yet, externalization of remotely controlled machine guns and automatic grenade launchers created another serious problem (apart from the need in sophisticated and expensive electronic devices to enable the remote control). While vehicle is on the move, the operator seated in the tower holds and stabilizes the machine gun with his two hands. In this way, targets are more or less attainable even with humps and bumps of the road. With remotely control systems however shooting precision will be completely lost in the ragged terrain unless the machine gun is stabilized in two planes. That’s why towers of every modern tank and infantry military vehicle are equipped with automatic stabilization device which operates in two planes and through the sight on the barrel keeps the vehicle off undesirable maneuvering.
To cut it short, the remotely guided armament complex of Lazika consisting of 23mm automatic canon and 7.62mm caliber machine gun is devoid of such a stabilization mechanism. It’s a great fault for an infantry military vehicle which is expected to engage in the fight unlike Didgori cars which are designed for patrolling. If the crew has to stop the vehicle every time it wants to shoot precisely then Lazika itself would become an easy enemy target. For example, Ejder type armored vehicles bought from Turkey are equipped with remotely guided armament complex (40mm automatic mortar gun and 7.62mm caliber machine gun) but lack their stabilization mechanism. As a result, the car has to stop to make a good shot. The author of this article had a chance to shoot from remotely controlled mortar gun of Ejder and understands it very well that stopping before shooting is a loser’s game.
P.S. It is hoped that Didgori and Lazika remotely guiding modules will be equipped with stabilization systems to boost their fire efficiency.