Future Army Vehicle Missile Shields Defined By Open-Architecture Brain

HUNTSVILLE, Ala.--Lockheed Martin [LMT] will continue to develop the Army’s future vehicle missile shield open architecture controller, a central brain that will operate a suite of technologies providing layered protection against enemy guided munitions.

About 45 companies are working in a consortium to design the Army’s Modular Active Protection System (MAPS) suite of sensors and countermeasures aimed at shielding a variety of Army vehicles from proliferating advanced munitions. Lockheed is in charge of developing the open-architecture controller that will link all the various components and allow integration of new technologies as they emerge.

Aerial drone image of an M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank crew, from the 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, conducting Table VI Gunnery at Fort Stewart, Ga. December 8, 2016.

Aerial drone image of an M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank crew, from the 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, conducting Table VI Gunnery at Fort Stewart, Ga. December 8, 2016.

The Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) awarded Lockheed a $5 million next-phase contract to continue maturing the MAPS controller base kit hardware and software and to support government integration efforts ahead of platform demonstrations scheduled to take place through 2019.

“The practice behind MAPS is to create that modular architecture with a common controller and framework with very well-defined protocols and standards for communication and we embed that inside of the vehicle,” TARDEC Director Paul Rogers told reporters last week at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual Global Force Symposium. “It represents the architecture within the vehicle that allows us to more quickly host different protection technologies onto the vehicle.”

MAPS is designed to enable protection of vehicles and their occupants by integrating sensors and countermeasures in a common framework to detect and defeat existing and emerging threats.

The Army is after an ever-adaptable suite of vehicle protection systems that include hard-kill fly out countermeasures to intercept an incoming threat, explode in front of or hit it directly. Soft-kill countermeasures involve spoofing the aim point of the incoming munition’s seeker to fly and hit the ground or go off-target. “Revenge kill” involves slew-to-cue technology where offensive weapons return fire nearly automatically to the perceived origin point of an enemy missile.

Other technologies being considered include active-blast countermeasures, systems to protect from top-attack and adaptive armor that can react to different munitions.

The first step, perhaps the most important one, is development of a truly open-systems controller that can link various technologies from various vendors into a seamless protection suite, Rogers said.

“What this allows us to do is, as we continue to develop these different solutions for given threats, having the modular architecture on the vehicle allows to now more easily apply those different countermeasures,” Rogers said. “It allows us to do it more rapidly and more affordably.”

Lockheed is developing the architecture alongside the Army in cooperation with TARDEC and the Army will retain ownership of the standards, interfaces and documentation that results from the program, according to Steven Botwinik, director of Lockheed’s Sensors and Global Sustainment Advanced Programs.

“It’s done in concert with them and we’ve evolved it over time, over years, to be able to get to where we are today in very lockstep with TARDEC,” he said at AUSA. “But, contractually, the Army owns all of that documentation. All of the interface documents, architecture documents are U.S. Army owned, they are not Lockheed Martin proprietary.”

Lockheed Martin delivered five MAPS controllers to TARDEC in 2017. As part of the 16-month follow-on effort, its engineers will work with TARDEC to mature the base kit hardware and software and to support integration of the MAPS Base Kit with existing sensors and countermeasures for U.S. Army virtual and range demonstrations on combat vehicles.

The TARDEC MAPS Base Kit, consists of a controller, user interface, power management distribution system and application software. It integrates Modular APS Framework-compliant components, sensors and countermeasures to detect and defeat threats targeting MAPS-equipped vehicles. In addition to current combat vehicle platforms, it is designed to support future vehicle protection system capabilities.

“The idea with the controller is to start with that open architecture,” Botwinik said. “What the Army would like to do is interface a variety of capabilities not just over time, but even for different classes of vehicles. … Our goal is to design that box and those architecture standards … to be able to demonstrate that we can interact with hard-kill solutions from a variety of vendors, with soft-kill solutions from a variety of technologies. Second, [we want to] make sure that architecture is owned by the U.S. Army.

Dozens of other companies are participating in the overall MAPS program, Rogers said. The consortium of 45 companies working in their own lanes toward the same solution will ensure that the disparate components are interoperable and that the Army can efficiently and affordably upgrade the system in the future, Rogers said.

“They’re doing the physical building and work on it, but all of these companies have access to and say-so on how we establish our standards and protocols, what kind of messaging, what goes into the box, what comes out of the box,” Rogers said. “What’s so important about that is that those four-dozen or so companies all make some other piece of the objective system. What their participation ensures is that the controller properly communicates with what they’re making.”

“In the past, we’ve had a single company or a single team of companies bring an entire system to us and it’s proprietary and they own it, they sell it to us,” he added. “Then in the future if we want to upgrade it, we have to go back to them. This changes that paradigm and it’s a more collaborative development process.”

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