The Army announced Friday it is halting tests of Artis’ Iron Curtain active protection system (APS) on Stryker fighting vehicles after officials determined the technology did not meet rapid deployment requirements, but the service will hold demonstrations this November to find a potential replacement system.

Col. Glenn Dean, lead official for the Army’s vehicle protection systems effort, said industry partners will have an opportunity this fall to showcase mature, ready-to-deploy APS offerings that will join ongoing evaluations for the Trophy APS on Bradley fighting vehicles and Iron First APS on Abrams tanks.

Stryker. Photo: U.S. Army
Stryker. Photo: U.S. Army

Dean, during a Friday call with reporters, said the Army delivered the decision to reject Iron Curtain for Stryker last week following completion of initial evaluations in April.

“We finally received a final decision out of the Army in August. And that decision was not to move forward with Iron Curtain, the system by Artis that we were evaluating on the Stryker,” Dean said. “That was because, although we observed that system generally worked in concept and generally was able to hit its targets, it was significantly immature. It would’ve required significant time and investment to get it to a maturity level where it was ready to be rapidly fielded. None of which was in the scope of our program.”

The Army is currently looking at APS solutions that offer improved anti-tank missile protection and can be rapidly deployed without requiring extensive development.

The Army has completed successful phase 1 testing with Israeli company Rafael’s Trophy APS on Abrams and has started qualification testing for urgent deployment under phase 2. In June, the Army awarded Leonardo DRS a $193 million contract to install Rafael’s Trophy on M1 Abrams as part of a concurrent phase 3, with plans to field the capability by 2020 (Defense Daily, June 26).

“We are on contract to build the first brigade and a half of four total brigades of Trophy that we plan to buy right now under the urgent program. And our test hardware urgent material testing is arriving in the States as we speak,” Dean told reporters. “Abrams is moving right along on the calendar we’ve expected and projected. That’s gone very well.”

The Iron First APS, developed by Israeli Military Industries (IMI) and General Dynamics [GD] Ordnance and Tactical Systems and being tested on Bradleys, has faced funding and live-fire testing setbacks. However, Dean said the evaluation program is now moving forward as planned.

“Bradley, in total, has been about eight months behind our original projections. Some of that was when we received initial funding for the project which was a bit delayed. Some of it was challenges with installing Iron First on the Bradley platform,” Dean said. “We expect to wrap up the bulk of the phase 1 activities that will inform the Army decision and take that to Army oversights requirement council for a decision on whether to go forward sometime this fall.”

Dean said demonstrations in the fall are intended to find a fourth APS option for the Army to be used on any of its combat vehicles, but they now could potentially replace Iron Curtain on Strykers.

“We’ve opened it up to everyone in industry who has a potential solution, so that we make sure we cover the range of the things that are available. We’ve offered the opportunity that if somebody has a system that we’re not currently evaluating to come in and demonstrate what their current level of performance is,” Dean said.

The demos will be conducted on Strykers, according to Dean, who said the decision arrived before rejecting the Iron Curtain platform.

“That was selected before we had the Stryker Iron Curtain system, in part, because we happen to have an excess of Stryker hauls that are residual material from our full production. So it’s much easier for us to use Strykers as target vehicles than any other combat platform,” Dean said.

Army officials may also consider modified versions of Trophy and Iron Fist at the upcoming demos, according to Dean, who said a number of industry members have decided to forgo testing their platforms due to the requirements for a mature, ready-to-go system.

“Significantly modified systems is something we’re looking at the with the demonstrations,” Dean said. “Out of the number of companies that approached us with initial interest, a lot of them subsequently have backed out because they’ve said they’re not ready.”

Dean said his office has also launched the first of three Vehicle Protection Systems’ programs of record aimed at finding holistic vehicle defense capabilities to improve the base armor across the Army’s entire combat vehicle fleet.

VPS will start with looking for signature management, advanced reactor armor tiles and laser warning systems for Abrams, Bradley, Stryker and future efforts, including the Mobile Protected Firepower tank, Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle and the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle. Capabilities are expected be fielded from the three efforts between 2020 and 2022.