Army to Equip Brigade of Abrams with Active Protection System by 2020
The Army plans to equip a brigade of Abrams main battle tanks with the Trophy active protection system by 2020, a service official said Oct. 9.
The Army has been testing the system — which can shoot down anti-tank guided missiles and rocket-propelled grenades — said Col. Glenn Dean, program manager of the Army’s Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
"The Army made a decision [that] we would move forward on phase two — which is our final series of testing — and phase three — which is production and deployment, essentially — simultaneously,” he said during a media briefing at the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.
The service plans to outfit a brigade of Abrams to be stationed in Europe with Trophy by 2020, and hopefully sooner, he added.
Besides the Abrams, the Army is testing active protection systems on the Bradley fighting vehicle and the Stryker combat vehicle, said Maj. Gen. David Bassett, program executive officer for ground combat systems.
“Our goal is to get recent, relevant, characterizing information on each of those platforms and capabilities,” he said. “This is about getting a broad range of information to inform Army decision making going forward.”
The Army wants to integrate APS into its platforms “sooner than later,” he added. To that end, the acquisition process has been accelerated.
Instead of drafting requirements, testing a technology exhaustively and then fielding it after an extended amount of time, the Army decided to approach the process differently, Bassett noted.
“Rather than starting with that requirement, we said, ‘OK, let’s install some systems,” he said. “[Let’s] get them on the platforms and characterize their performance to test for the capabilities and limitations of those systems.
“In an era where everybody wants us to do acquisition differently, this is a different model that we followed and I think it’s a great framework that we may be able to use to evaluate other existing systems,” Bassett added.
The Abrams — which is using Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Leonardo DRS’ Trophy system — is the most far along in testing, Dean said.
Trophy was tested at Camp Grayling, Michigan, this past winter, he noted. The location provided the system with a good stress test for cold environments, he said.
Following that, Trophy was brought to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, for live testing, he said.
“[We were] shooting actual threats,” Dean said. “I’m happy to say we tried to kill an Abrams about 48 times and failed.”
The testing has provided the Army with valuable data, he said. For example, when Trophy was installed it added weight to the tank.. That impacted the balance of the turret, which initially concerned officials because that could impact its stabilization. The Army put together a team that came up with a plan to mitigate the balance issue, he noted.
Overall, the Army is happy with the performance of the system, Dean said.
The service is also testing General Dynamics and IMI Systems’ Iron Fist on the Bradley, and Artis’ Iron Curtain on the Stryker, he said. Those systems, however, are not as far into testing as Trophy, he added. That’s partly because of funding delays, he said.
“The Bradley and Stryker also represent a little bit more challenging” integration process, he noted. Additionally, “the maturity of those systems may not quite as high as advertised.”Bassett noted that the Army is not locked in to working with any of the contractors down the line, and the service could change its mind as it seeks a more long-term APS solution.
Iron Fist (General Dynamics)
Kevin Sims, senior director of business development and marketing for munitions, armaments and platform systems at General Dynamics’ ordnance and tactical systems division, acknowledged that Iron Fist is a bit behind.
“From a contractual perspective, we started later than some of those other systems. We were the last guy,” he said. Additionally, the Bradley poses some unique integration issues.
“The Bradley vehicle is challenging because of the size, weight and power [constraints]. There’s not a lot of space on the roof,” he said. “It has been a little bit of a challenge on the integration perspective.”
However, Sims was confident that the company would meet all of the performance parameters that the Army had laid out for the system, he noted. “We feel pretty good about that,” he said.
IMI Systems is the manufacturer of Iron Fist, and General Dynamics is the prime contractor for it in the United States, he said.
Iron Curtain (Artis)
Keith Brendley, CEO at Artis, said contractor testing of the Iron Curtain system on the Stryker has been completed.
“It did very well and the evidence of that is the fact that we’ve moved on to this … government testing, which is the second phase,” he said.
Iron Curtain is currently about a quarter to a third way through the second phase, he added.
One advantage of Iron Curtain is that it attaches to the hull of the system, he said. That “is much more easy to integrate, and we can protect the turret from the hull if needed because we can either look down, shoot down or look up, shoot up.”
Brendley said the company's system is applicable to almost any type of vehicle, and has been integrated onto tracked platforms in the past. Right now the company is focused on Stryker testing, but would “welcome further opportunities from the Army as they arise.”
Michael O’Leary, director of business development at Leonardo DRS, said the company is interested in potentially providing Trophy for the Bradley and Stryker. The company has listened to the Army about its concerns for size, weight and power on the vehicles and is currently developing a smaller system.
“A lightweight Trophy exists today and we’re going to finish that development [and] qualify it in time to … contribute to the decision making for the Army on the other platforms,” he told National Defense during the show.
O’Leary declined to say how much smaller the system would be compared to the current version. He noted that the company is working to ensure that performance is not sacrificed to reduce its size.
Topics: Combat Survivability, Combat Vehicles, Emerging Technologies, Land Forces, Army News