Home IDEF 2021 - Special Issue Unidef Excels in Weapon Integration with Innovative Solutions

Unidef Excels in Weapon Integration with Innovative Solutions

by Buse Köse

As armed forces around the world face new threats, innovative, cost- effective and export-free weapon integration solutions become on high demand. Developing tailor-made solutions in accordance with end-user requirements and expanding its solutions portfolio, Unidef strives to be the solution partner of allied nations. Two of Unidef’s new projects, the gun pod and active-balanced weapon mount, are recent examples of the company’s innovative solutions.

Unidef Develops ITAR-Free Gun Pod

Unidef will equip the gun pod, the first member of a planned product family that can be integrated with both rotary- and fixed-wing air platforms, with a 12.7 mm machine gun.

Unidef’s expertise in the field of weapon integration to air platforms expands with its gun pod solution. This gun pod is planned to be the first member of a product family that can be used in both rotary- and fixed-wing air platforms, and will be equipped with a 12.7 mm machine gun. Unidef aims to bring a series of innovative details to the gun pod design. The most important advantage that the company will offer to users is a solution that is not subject to export restrictions.

Unidef has been carrying out helicopter weapon integration projects since 2014, and after bringing many of them to successful completion, the interest abroad in these systems has particularly incentivised it to launch efforts to develop gun pods. A request from a solution partner in the United States with which Unidef has been collaborating in weapon integration projects since its establishment, has also played an important role in this venture into a new area of interest. The US firm requested Unidef to produce an ITAR-free gun pod equipped with a 12.7×99 mm machine gun for the Shorts Tucano aircraft it has modernised and transformed into a close air support aircraft.

Having seen the potential, Unidef’s experience in weapon system integration studies for rotary-wing air platforms have facilitated a quick entry into the gun pod development field, launching gun pod development studies on 6 August 2020, using its own resources without waiting for any orders or official support.

Unidef Co-founder Cem Kurter

What Kind of Pod?

Unidef takes a realistic approach in its efforts related to gun pods, as explained by Cem Kurter, Co-Founder of Unidef: “We took a different path in our design. We looked for an appropriate solution for our gun pod to be compatible with many different platforms. We looked at proven examples around the world, and found them all to be very close to each other in terms of total weight, ammunition capacity and dimensions, so our design will follow suit. We avoided such optimisation approaches as “make it lighter, yet able to carry more ammunition”. After all, the planes and helicopters carrying these pods are obvious, and their current gun pods, have been tested for safe separation to be qualified on those platforms within certain engineering conditions. Accordingly, we did not want to worry platform manufacturers or users with different designs. In short, we believe that we will gain their trust for cooperation by using a design they are familiar with. We believe that we can make a difference with a complete solution incorporating an indigenous design recoil mechanism, an indigenous dynamic sight solution, an indigenous armament management system, and an indigenous weapon.

At the end of the day, our gun pod will be subject to tests on the platforms it will be integrated. For example, safe separation tests must be carried out separately for each platform. If you move away from the established designs in the market and make a very distinctive one, obtaining similar results in separation tests may not be guaranteed. In such cases, you will have to go back to square one and come up with an engineering solution for each different platform, and you may very well throw in the towel at the end.”

Gun from Samsun Yurt Savunma

One of the most important trump cards held by Unidef in its gun pod development works are its partnerships with two small arms producers, namely; Samsun Yurt Savunma (SYS) and Khan Arms.

SYS is close to completing its 12.7×99 mm Platform Machine Gun (.50 cal Browning Heavy Machine Gun) local production project, for which it made some significant investments, gaining two different barrel production lines; a test infrastructure that can simulate all environmental conditions in accordance with the MIL-STD-810 standard; and has established two firing ranges, one 50 meters and the other 100 meters. As a result of these efforts, the qualification of the CANİK 12.7 mm Platform Machine Gun was completed, and the weapon became ready for mass production.

Development works of a special version of this gun, capable of firing 875 rounds per minute, are continuing to be used in the gun pod currently being developed by Unidef.  Accordingly, Unidef will be able to offer a competitive gun solution, since the gun is one of the items subject to the most common export restrictions when it comes to gun pods.

Unirobotics, a subsidiary of Unidef, is developing the electrical module and cabling architecture of the gun pod.

Having decided upon all of the sub-components of the gun pod either to be developed or directly procured, Unidef will use Commercial-off-the Shelf / COTS products for the ejector rack and ground support equipment developed by its stakeholders, some of which will also develop such critical systems as the heads-up display and armament management systems on behalf of Unidef.

Unidef-Aeros Collaboration Accelerates the Process

Another prominent stakeholder in Unidef’s gun pod development efforts is Aeros. Collaborating with Unidef in the provision of special engineering solutions covering all of its activities, and operating as a business partner in this project, Aeros is undertaking work packages in the areas such as aerodynamic analyses and providing consultancy in structural design. This business partnership between Unidef and Aeros, which combines the expertise in weapons with expertise in integration of external systems to air platforms, is set for expansion in the future to include the design and industrialisation of different weapon and mission pods in line with user needs.

In the first integration of the gun pod to a fixed- or rotary-wing aircraft, the external load certification will be carried in compliance with the MIL-HDBK-1763 standard. Thus, Unidef is making use of the information obtained from the “Aviation Foundations, Aircraft Systems, Design, Testing and Certification Processes” training received from Aeros last year, as well as the processes it updated in line with the international aviation design norms.

Solution Including All Subsystems

Unidef and Aeros teams work on the ground test stand.

Unidef is taking a holistic approach to the gun pod development project by developing a number of subsystems and equipment simultaneously with the pod, including ground support equipment (dolly), the ejector rack, the head-up display (HUD) and the Store Management System. As such, users of Unidef’s gun pod will gain a complete solution that is not subject to any export restrictions.

Project is Proceeding to Schedule

With the official launch of works related to the gun pod, Unidef started by coming up with the concept design, determining the system configuration units, conducting the aerodynamic shell design and analyses, and carrying out the interior design of the pod. To date, some of these works have been completed, while others are being expanded upon.

One of the most critical stages in development studies, being the Test and Verification plan for qualification, has been prepared to include also Flight Test Plan.

The first ground firing tests of the first prototype have been completed between 8-9 July.

On the subsystems front, orders for COTS products have been put in place. For complementary subsystems, Unidef has started receiving quotes or signing agreements with stakeholders in the sector.

Unidef has set a 23-month schedule for the project. All flight tests, including tests for safe separation from aircraft in emergencies, are determined to be completed to schedule.

Comprehensive Flight Tests

Unidef plans to conduct flight tests in the United States, for which the necessary agreements have been made with three US companies. For the test program, two air platforms selected among four alternatives will be used, one of which will be the Shorts Tucano aircraft modernised by the company’s US business partner.

Unidef is aiming to test a complete solution with an indigenous HUD incorporating a dynamic sight, an indigenous armament management system and indigenous weapon. Indigenous ejector rack and ground support equipment are also planned to be tested, if deemed technically viable.

Active-Balanced Weapon Mount Increases the Efficiency of Guns on Small Boats

The countries with wide continental shelves or maritime zones divided by the hundreds of islands prefer relatively small-sized surface platforms to protect their borders on their inland seas due to their high-speed manoeuvring capacity accompanied with high striking power. On the other hand, RWSs cannot be a feasible option for these small-sized boats because of the relatively larger size of their footprints on the platforms, their costs and the limited situational awareness provided to the operators (“soda straw” field of view effect). Hence, the weapon operator’s ability to track all the developments in his field of vision and suppress the targets in this area come forward as the most critical necessities on such types of platforms like assault boats.

Simple weapon mounts for guns provide the broadest field of view; however, the operators using these systems suffer from physical fatigue resulting from the harsh marine conditions, and their stress levels increase following the magnitude of risks brought in by the mission. The operator’s mind is occupied with detecting and identifying the threats while trying to keep his body in balance on a moving platform. Apart from them, at the moments of engagement, the duty to keep the weapon aimed at the target and suppress the target with adequate firepower becomes more significant. In these circumstances, the operator naturally experiences both physical and mental fatigue at the highest level.

In such a scene drawn above, no matter how efficient they are in terms of ballistics, these weapons cannot operate in the marine conditions as efficient as they do on a fixed installation on land. The performance of the weapons exposed to distortionary effects of the sea is solely dependent on the capabilities and initiatives of the operator. As a result, the overdependence on the operator adversely affects the unique ability expected from the platform and reduces the crew’s self-confidence.

Simple weapon mounts for guns provide the broadest field of vision; however, the operators using these systems suffer from physical fatigue resulting from the harsh marine conditions, and their stress levels increase by the magnitude of risks brought in by the mission.

Solution: Active-Balanced Weapon Mount

Unidef, with its partners Samsun Yurt Savunma and Unirobotics, is designing Active-Balanced Weapon Mount as a semi-robotic system minimizing the distortionary effects of the sea and taking the harmony among the operator, the weapon, and the platform to the maximum level.  

Eliminating the adverse effects of simple weapon mounts, Active-Balanced Weapon Mount is composed of the following: 

  1. The weapon Operator is the brain of the system. In this concept, where a screen limits neither the sight nor the detection speed of the human brain surrendered to a computer, the operator can make quick decisions based on the peripheral awareness achieved via his existential inheritance. 
  2. The primary weapon of the system is the 12.7×99 mm calibre platform-mounted indigenous machine gun. Located at the top of Active-Balanced Weapon Mount, the 12.7 mm calibre heavy machine gun is preparing to take back its well-deserved place on mainly marine platforms thanks to its reliability defying the years, high level of effective firing range, and finally, its destructive impact over the targets.
  3. Active-Balanced Weapon Mount will be equipped with inertial measurement units (IMU) with varying sensitivity levels so that the command received from the brain of the operator can be perceived accurately. Additionally, it can also keep the barrel within the specified range and within specified Minutes of Angle, thanks to its software, whose firing control algorithm have been developed by the subcontractor. 
  4. To increase the sensitivity and hit rate of the system, simple but handy accessories will be included in the system. Unidef is working in cooperation with the other stakeholders in the sector to develop these accessories. 

Active-Balanced Weapon Mount is planned to be ready for mass production by the first quarter of 2023, after completing calibration tests.

Containerized Integrated Weapon Systems and Watchtowers on the Way

Containerized integrated weapon systems and watchtowers (CIWSW) have become increasingly demanded systems in recent years. The system’s most significant advantage is its portability – its rapid deployment feature that does not require preparation – its scalable, flexible, and modular architecture and its stand-alone structure suitable for unmanned use.

CIWSW systems have been used effectively to ensure the perimeter security of strategic infrastructures such as military bases, camps, helipads, or airports to be temporarily deployed in cross-border operations without wasting time in a real conflict environment. CIWSW systems can be transported back to the homeland by land, sea, air, or train without requiring any preparation before the end of the operation period.

Unidef, GES Engineering and Meteksan Defence are jointly developing a CIWSW solution. This product combines GES Engineering’s mobile watchtower with Unidef’s turret system and Meteksan Defence’s Retinar PTR-X Perimeter Surveillance Radar. All three companies continue to work on the system, in accordance with end-user requirements.

CIWSW systems can be compared to parts of LEGO toys with their flexible and modular structures. It can be reconfigured for manned or unmanned use under the mission profile. The architectural design of CIWSW systems allows them to be equipped with autonomous smart systems. Diesel generators, solar panels, energy storage systems, energy control modules, satellite communication systems, electro-optical surveillance systems, line on sight communication systems, reconnaissance surveillance radars, and all kinds of weapon systems integrated with them, smoke mortars for self-protection, rocket stopper nets, jamming systems, and even drone systems can be easily mounted on the structure.

More than one CIWSW system can be communicated among themselves and controlled remotely from a centre. Thus, CIWSW systems equipped with augmented visual awareness electro-optics and reconnaissance surveillance radars can be used like robotic soldiers without employing large numbers of infantry or security officers.

CIWSW systems are strategically and commercially critical. They can be used over large areas, oil and natural gas pipelines, refineries, military and commercial ports, oil filling and discharge facilities, military and civil airports, dams, radar, and missile bases, temporary base areas, military camps. It is useful in the uninterrupted protection of all kinds of boundary lines at high and low altitudes. CIWSW systems can also arm any surface vehicle that is not suitable for carrying weapons and military equipment temporarily and secretly.

Besides, it can be used effectively to control streets and avenues in residential conflicts, control inter-buildings, and divide neighbourhood boundaries. It can detect and eliminate enemy elements hidden behind low buildings or columns and see unarmed innocent features that took refuge in these places.

CIWSW systems provide situational awareness and decision-makers’ decision-makers from a safe distance by eliminating human error with all kinds of reconnaissance, surveillance, identification radars, electro-optics, advanced technology communication systems, and weapons systems with high ballistic sensitivity.

CIWSW systems increase environmental awareness, eliminate unwanted collateral damage, facilitate separation between friends and foes, provide space control, and create a power multiplier by positioning the useful payload above the ground using height-adjustable hydraulic mast or lifters. It prevents damage to the system by storing this proper workload inside the container in a non-conflict environment and provides the duty to counterintelligence.

Unidef, GES Engineering and Meteksan Defence are jointly developing a CIWSW solution. This product combines GES Engineering’s mobile watchtower with Unidef’s turret system and Meteksan Defence’s Retinar PTR-X Perimeter Surveillance Radar. All three companies continue to work on the system, in accordance with end-user requirements.

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