WASHINGTON — Kongsberg is sending its integrated counter-drone system to Ukraine to help guard against incoming Iranian-made loitering munitions, and hopes to convince the U.S. Army and Marine Corps to consider the system for future vehicle programs.
The Norwegian company builds the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station, or CROWS, used atop U.S. Army vehicles as well as the remote weapon station on the Marine Corps’ Marine Air Defense Integrated System.
But the company sees where its Integrated Combat Solution software, which would tie together multiple vehicles, unmanned systems and sensors, “could change the way we fight, and doctrinally change and improve survivability to our end user,” John Carlsson, the company’s vice president of business development in the United States, told Defense News this week at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference.
That digital backbone of the Integrated Combat Solution was already fielded in Norway and other Scandinavian countries, Carlsson said, and it’s now set to help Ukrainians as they manage a complex airspace that includes Iranian Shahed loitering munitions.
Kongsberg announced in August it was part of a team sending the CORTEX Typhon counter-drone system to Ukraine. Kongsberg is providing the remote weapon station and the ICS software, which will be informed by sensors provided by Teledyne and will sit atop Dingo 2 vehicles donated by the Norwegian government.
Vetle Dragsten, Kongsberg’s technical director for integrated defense systems in the C4ISR business line, told Defense News that the Shahed drone, with a 2-meter wingspan, is the focus of the system heading into Ukraine.
“That’s kind of the main objective — to engage those type of aerial threats without having to employ higher-range, more expensive air-to-air missiles,” he said.
Ivar Simensen, the company’s vice president of communications, added that Norway and the United States already donated Kongsberg’s Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System to Ukraine, but the hope is to preserve those for more sophisticated aerial threats like jets and helicopters, while using the CORTEX Typhon to neutralize drone threats.
Dragsten demonstrated the ICS technology at the company’s display booth at AUSA, showing how the weapon station operator in the back of the vehicle could see on the display screen what areas other nearby vehicles were looking at, feeds from surveillance drones, other external sensors, and more. The operator could use that information to fire their own vehicle’s weapon, fire the weapon of another manned or unmanned vehicle within the network, or delegate targets to different vehicles for them to monitor.
Carlsson said this type of networked operation is at the heart of what Marines are seeking with their Advanced Reconnaissance Vehicle. Kongsberg is working with BAE Systems on its bid for the program, and Carlsson said the company had worked with the Marine Corps during its requirements development phase to shape the direction of the vehicle program.
The Marine Corps is considering BAE’s proposal alongside two others from Textron and General Dynamics Land Systems.
On the Army side, Carlsson said the development and acquisition of the Robotic Combat Vehicle would be an opportune time for the service to make the leap to ICS technology.
Fourteen versions of CROWS exist within the Defense Department, Carlsson said, each with their own software version. A technology refresh effort is already aimed at replacing these with the current Mainline 5 software, which is compatible with ICS tech.
Carlsson said Kongsberg is working with the manufacturers competing for the Robotic Combat Vehicle program and talking to the Army about shaping its requirements. If the service chose to pursue ICS technology for the robotic program and for the CROWS refresh, the Army would have a digital backbone that would allow for more sophisticated operations, he argued.
Kongsberg ranked 61st place in Defense News’ Top 100 list this year, pulling in about $1.4 billion in defense revenue in 2022.
Megan Eckstein is the naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when she’s filing stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumna.