Service officials cut the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS), built by Norwegian defense giant Kongsberg, from $2.6 billion down to $970 million.
The CROWS system lets U.S. troops fire the heavy weaponry mounted on top of Humvees, Strykers and other armored vehicles from the cabin, without exposing themselves to enemy fire.
Before CROWS, Army crews had to pop up and fire those weapons manually, exposing themselves to improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire.
To date, the Army has put over 11,000 CROWS systems in the field. Looking to build on that success, the service started a follow-on program to the first CROWS contract. The goal: to buy another 7,000 of the weapon system.
The $2.6 billion deal would have been split into two contracts by the Army, both of which would be openly competed, despite the fact that Kongsberg had won the initial contract.
But the Army recently decided to reduce that to a single contract award for 3,000 more CROWS systems, according to an industry source.
The Army decided to buy fewer CROWS because it isn’t buying as many combat vehicles. An second industry source said the vehicle purchases “have since been reduced as greater fiscal scrutiny has been given to the defense budget.”
Army officials have said if costs continue to grow on its Ground Combat Vehicle program, service officials would pull the plug on the multimillion-dollar effort. Senate appropriators already pulled the plug on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle last month, citing concerns with the program’s costs.
With the fate of both those programs in doubt, it is unclear whether the Army could get the CROWS program back up to that goal of 18,000 systems total, as originally planned.
In addition to protecting solders from enemy fire, CROWS includes a long-range targeting system that keeps soldiers and their vehicles out of range of enemy weapons while being able to strike enemy forces.
The system was so successful in the field that the Army extended the initial CROWS contract three times to meet the demand.