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Remote-control gun turrets, made for Italy

Italian defense department orders Hitrole remote-controlled machine gun turrets to enable soldiers in Afghanistan to aim and fire without exposing themselves to attack.

Oto Melara

The Italian army has ordered 81 Hitrole Light remote-controlled weapon stations for its Iveco Lince vehicles in response to increased attacks in Afghanistan employing improvised explosive devices, according to a statement last month from Italian Ministero della Difesa, or ministry of defense.

Italy has struggled to live up to its NATO commitments in the face of widespread domestic opposition to the war in Afghanistan, and it 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 an electrically powered machine gun turret, operated by a single gunner ensconced safely below. The gunner aims and fires, using a flat-panel display and a joystick; elevation and traverse functions are electric. The standard sensor package contains a color daytime TV camera, infrared night sight, and an eye-safe laser range finder (PDF).

The gun system, which is fully stabilized, features an automatic target tracker, increasing the probability of first-round hits on both stationary and fleeting targets, even while the platform is moving, according to Italian manufacturer Oto Melara, which signed a contract worth 20 million euros with the Italian defense ministry.

A subsidiary of Finmeccanica, Oto Melara was once called Vickers Terni, of rugged World War 1 Vickers machine gun 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 at least 1,500 coalition deaths in Afghanistan since the war began, according to a recent tally--22 of whom were Italian.