Picatinny Arsenal opened its "Cannon Gates" on October 6 to host an industry day for the upcoming M153 Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station (CROWS) competition. The CROWS is a turret system that provides Soldiers the ability to employ cameras, sensors, and weapons from inside the protection of an armored vehicle. The CROWS platform provides significant capability to the Army's Brigade Combat Teams operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. Demand for additional systems continues to grow. Project Manager Soldier Weapons is in the process of conducting its third CROWS contract competition to procure an additional 3,000 new CROWS along with the engineering and maintenance services needed to reset the existing fleet of more than 8,000 fielded CROWS.

"More than 50 companies attended our pre-solicitation conference," said LTC Thomas Ryan, Product Manager Crew Served Weapons. "We were able to engage attendees with technical discussions, hands-on system displays, and a question and answer session. We will incorporate feedback gained from the event as we put the finishing touches on our final request for proposal document, which should come out later this year."

Pre-solicitation conferences provide industry with critical insights into the needs of the Army. Oftentimes the needs are complex and the more closely industry and the Army can partner early on in the acquisitions cycle, the better the ultimate outcome will be for the Soldier. For example, the Army's CROWS team fielded nearly 100 questions at the conference and was able to provide answers to more than 85 questions right on the spot. All answers to industry questions are ultimately posted on the FedBizOps.gov website. This type of information exchange helps industry prepare to compete for programs that make a critical difference to the Soldier.

"Our industry partnerships make all the difference," said Art Fiorellini, Division Chief, Remote Weapon Systems Division. "CROWS turns area weapons like the M2 machine gun into on-the-move precision engagement systems. It does this while reducing Soldier exposure to direct enemy fire, IEDs and the threat of rollover. Working with industry helps us put such advanced capability into the hands of Soldiers to help them accomplish their mission and come home safe."

CROWS solicitation information is available on Fedbizops.gov under W15QKN-11-R-F015. A contract award is anticipated a year after closing of the final request for proposal.