Some ‘Bulgarian’ Stryker AFVs will be armed with Protector RWS

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In a significant move towards modernizing its military force, Bulgaria has embarked on a comprehensive rearmament program. The country has formally requested the United States for a potential procurement of up to 183 armored personnel carriers [APC] or armored fighting vehicle [AFV] of the Stryker-type. This proposed acquisition, valued at an estimated $1.5 billion, signifies a substantial investment in Bulgaria’s defense capabilities. 

Photo by Georgios Moumoulidis

The United States authorities have demonstrated their approval of this strategic move, providing their consent earlier in September. This decision underscores the ongoing collaboration and mutual commitment to security between the two nations.

In this particular instance, a significant number of the carriages will be equipped with two distinct remote-controlled weapon stations, courtesy of Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace [KDA]. This strategic move serves to considerably broaden the distribution of the Protector RWS family, a testament to the evolving dynamics of defense technology.

RS4 and RS6

Photo by Spc. Donovon Lynch

As of the present moment, no contractual agreement has been finalized. The authoritative body known as the Defense and Security Cooperation Agency [DSCA], a critical component of the Department of Defense, has taken the official step of announcing its approval. This approval pertains to the Foreign Military Sales [FMS] export, specifically focusing on the dispatch of Stryker vehicles along with their corresponding weapons and equipment, all destined for the nation of Bulgaria.

In light of the reviewed data, it has been discerned that about 90 of the vehicles under discussion will be of the XM1296 Dragoon variant. This particular model is characterized by its unmanned turrets, which are armed with XM813 machine guns, notable for their 30×173 mm caliber. These XM813 machine guns serve as a significant upgrade to the Stryker vehicles. 

The responsibility for the supply of these enhanced Stryker vehicles has been entrusted to Oshkosh Defense. An interesting facet of this development is the utilization of Samson Turrets, a product of Rafael, a leading defense technology company based in Israel.

Photo credit: Kongsberg

In the impending delivery to Bulgaria, Kongsberg products will also be included, although the precise number remains undisclosed. The shipment is set to comprise both the Protector RS4 [M153A4] and the RS6, further bolstering the security arsenal of the country.

What is Protector RS4?

Protector RS4 is a remote weapon station [RWS] developed by Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace. It is designed to be mounted on various types of military vehicles, such as armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles.

The RS4 is known for its advanced technology and versatility, providing enhanced situational awareness and firepower to the vehicle it is installed on.

Photo credit: Kongsberg

The armament of the Kongsberg Protector RS4 can vary depending on the specific requirements of the customer. However, it typically includes a 12.7mm machine gun or a 40mm automatic grenade launcher. These weapons are controlled remotely by the operator from inside the vehicle, ensuring the safety of the crew while engaging targets.

The Kongsberg Protector RS4 works by utilizing a combination of sensors, cameras, and advanced software. The system provides the operator with a 360-degree view of the surroundings, allowing them to detect and engage threats effectively.

The operator can control the weapon system using a joystick or a control panel, and the RS4 can be operated from a protected position inside the vehicle. The system also incorporates features like stabilization and target tracking, which enhance accuracy and enable engagement on the move.

The main differences between RS4 and RS6

One of the main differences between the RS4 and RS6 is their size and weight. The RS4 is a smaller and lighter system, making it suitable for lighter armored vehicles or those with limited space and weight capacity. On the other hand, the RS6 is larger and heavier, providing more firepower and protection, and is typically mounted on heavier armored vehicles.

Another important difference is the armament options available for each system. The RS4 is typically equipped with a single weapon, such as a machine gun or a grenade launcher, while the RS6 can be configured with multiple weapons, including heavier machine guns, automatic cannons, or anti-tank missiles. This difference in armament options allows the RS6 to engage a wider range of targets and provide increased firepower.

Photo credit: GDLS

The level of protection offered by the RS4 and RS6 also differs. The RS4 provides a certain level of ballistic protection for the operator, as well as protection against small arms fire and shell fragments. The RS6, being a larger system, offers enhanced protection, including increased ballistic protection and improved resistance against anti-tank weapons and improvised explosive devices [IEDs]. This increased protection makes the RS6 better suited for high-threat environments.

Furthermore, the RS6 incorporates advanced technology and features compared to the RS4. It includes advanced sensors, such as thermal imaging cameras and laser rangefinders, which enhance situational awareness and target acquisition capabilities. The RS6 also has a higher degree of automation, allowing for faster target engagement and improved accuracy.

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