YORK, Pa. – The Army on Dec. 16 will hold the first in a series of VIP meetings to brief them on efforts to equip combat vehicles with active protection systems.
An undisclosed roster of general officers and congressional staffers will meet at the Army Tank Automotive Research and Development Center (TARDEC) in Detroit to get an update on efforts to install APS on an M1 Abrams tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle and a Stryker wheeled combat vehicle.
“It’s to familiarize them with the integration onto Abrams, Bradley and Stryker,” Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat Systems, told reporters following a rollout ceremony for the Armored Multipurpose Vehicle (AMPV) at BAE Systems’ York, Pa., manufacturing facility. He quickly corrected himself, replacing “integration” with “installation and characterization,” because the former implies that more work is being done than is needed to install and test the capabilities of a single system on the tank.
An APS already is fully installed on an M1 Abrams tank and will begin testing in January, Bassett said. The system installed on the tank is likely the DRS Technologies Trophy APS. Bassett would not confirm which system was installed on the Abrams.
Work is ongoing to install and characterize other APS designs onto a Bradley Fighting Vehicle and a Stryker wheeled combat vehicle. The Army was unable to begin characterization work for APS on Bradley and Stryker until Congress reprogrammed funding for the work, which it has. Both vehicles outfitted with their respective APS should follow Abrams into test within 90 days, Bassett said.
The Army does not yet know where testing will be conducted. Several sites are being considered, including Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland and Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. Six months will be spent characterizing the system performance for each system-vehicle pairing in preparation for an Army acquisition decision this summer.
The Iron Curtain missile shield designed by Artis under a DARPA development program will be tested for its ability to protect Stryker wheeled vehicles specifically from rocket propelled grenades (RPG). Israeli Military Industries’ Iron Fist non-developmental APS is being tested aboard Bradley and DRS Technologies’ Trophy APS will be installed for test aboard Abrams.
Bassett did not name particular systems, but said that various makes and models are being considered and each is not necessarily tied to the vehicle on which it is first tested.
“I am committed to looking at a range of existing APS systems across our platforms,” Bassett said. “We’re not putting the same on any two vehicles and we’re retaining the rights – we may decide we like this one on that vehicle and then have to do another install and characterize. We’re keeping an open mind about what represents the best possible solution.”
The program is still within the Army’s research and development budget, but there is sufficient funding in the fiscal 2016 and 2017 appropriations to accomplish the characterization work. Plans are in the works to move APS procurement into the base budget next year if the Army decides this summer to move forward with fielding a system.
“We have sufficient funds for what we have planned,” Bassett said of the research and development effort. “We’re positioning that for the Army to be able to make a decision about it next summer, to be able to decide whether they want to put it out there or buy X number of brigades or whatever.”
The Army is in the midst of a very successful run of new-vehicle rollouts including the Armored Multipurpose Vehicle (AMPV) on Dec. 15 that was preceded by a little more than a month by an upgunned Stryker outfitted with a 30mm cannon. It also has the Paladin Integrated Management mobile artillery in low-rate initial production along with the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV). Once the upcoming APS testing is done on Abrams, Bradley and Stryker, the service will have enough relevant test data to make decisions on whether the systems are appropriate for installation on other Army vehicles Bassett said.
“We’re going to have a good idea of how those systems perform and recent, relevant testing,” Bassett said. “We’ll understand both the capabilities and the limitations. Often everybody focuses only on the capabilities. We want to make sure Army leadership understands all of it.”