The Italian Army has ordered 81 Hitrole Light remote controlled weapon stations for its Iveco Lince vehicles in response to increased IED attacks in Afghanistan, according to the Italian Ministry of Defense.
Italy has struggled to live up to its NATO commitments in the face of wide spread domestic opposition to the war in Afghanistan, and has gone to great lengths to keep casualties to an absolute minimum. One way to do that is to stay buttoned-up.
The Hitrole is one-man, electrically powered machine gun turret, manned by a gunner ensconced safely below. The gunner aims and fires using a flat panel display and a joystick; elevation and traverse functions are all electric. The standard sensor package consists of a color day TV camera, infra red night sight and an eye-safe laser rangefinder.(PDF)
The gun system is fully stabilized and features an automatic target tracker, this combination increases the probability of first round hits on both stationary and fleeting targets even while the platform is moving, according to the Italian manufacture Oto Melara. The contract was worth approximately $30 million to the company. Oto Melara, a subsidiary of Finmeccanica, was once called Vickers Terni, of the rugged Vickers machine gun WWI fame.
The unit can be fitted with a variety of weapons up to a .50 caliber machine gun, or an automatic grenade launcher. Reloading is also preformed from below, with belt ammunition being fed through a flexible duct.
There have been 1,505 coalition deaths in Afghanistan since the war began as of yesterday, according to a recent tally-22 of which were Italian.