For the first time, the Army in its fiscal 2018 budget request has set aside significant funding to purchase and develop systems that can protect combat vehicles from missiles.

In response to the proliferation of advanced man-portable air defense systems (MANPADs) and anti-tank guided missiles, the Army seeks in its 2018 budget to outfit both aircraft and ground combat vehicles – specifically the Abrams tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle and Stryker wheeled combat vehicle – with sensors and countermeasures capable of defeating those threats.

“The proliferation of advanced man portable air defense systems significantly threaten Army Aviation in operational environments. On the ground, our combat vehicles lack the ability to effectively detect, track, divert, disrupt, neutralize, or destroy incoming missiles,” Lt. Gen. John Murray, deputy chief of staff, G-8, said in May 24 written testimony to the House Armed Services subcommittee on tactical air and forces.

Murray said the Army plans to develop and field the Common Infrared Counter Measure (CIRCM) and Advanced Threat Detection System (ATDS) to increase Army rotorcraft “detect and defeat” capability against the MANPADS threat. The service also will expedite the installation of commercially available active protection systems on armored and Stryker brigade combat teams in Europe by the end of fiscal year 2020, he said.

Dragoons from Lightning Troop, 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment advance in a Stryker during a joint training exercise with Lithuanian soldiers in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Pabrade Training Area, Lithuania, March 2, 2015. Photo: DVIDS
Dragoons from Lightning Troop, 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment advance in a Stryker during a joint training exercise with Lithuanian soldiers in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Pabrade Training Area, Lithuania, March 2, 2015. Photo: DVIDS

Looking to future years, the Army in fiscal 2018 will launch a comprehensive “Vehicle Protection Suite” (VPS) program to develop an integrated protection capability using the Modular Active Protection System (MAPS) as the common controller and software.

The Army has requested $30 billion in overseas contingency operations (OCO), or war funding to support the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI). Within that huge chunk of change is funding for 35 APS kits for Bradley Fighting Vehicles on the Continent to deter Russian aggression along NATO’s eastern flank.

Also included in the ERI pot of funding are 87 APS sets for M1 Abrams main battle tanks “which is critical to counter anti-armor capabilities in near-peer adversaries,” Army budget documents say. Production of the systems begins in fiscal 2018, with installation beginning in fiscal 2019 and continuing into fiscal 2020 and beyond.

Those APS systems – DRS Technologies’ Trophy for Abrams and Israeli Military Industries’ (IMI) Iron Fist for Bradley – are considered non-developmental items (NDI) and represent the nearer-term of two parallel Army efforts to install APS on combat vehicles. DRS is the U.S.-based division of Italy’s Leonardo.

The Army’s budget request sets aside a total $387.5 million for APS installation on Abrams – $249 million in the base budget and $138 million in OCO. Another $444 million in base funding and $30 million in OCO will pay for installation of NDI active protection systems on Bradley, according to budget documents.

A schedule published along with the Army’s RDT&E budget shows contract award dates for APS installation kits and prototypes for the three combat vehicles. For Abrams, a contract worth $23.8 million should be let in October to TARDEC, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and General Dynamics [GD] Land Systems (GDLS). Rafael makes the Trophy APS that is sold by DRS Technologies in the United States.

In January 2018, TARDEC plans to award IMI, and BAE Systems a $29 million contract for installation of Iron Fist APS on Bradley. The same month, TARDEC will pay $5.1 million to Artis and GDLS for Iron Curtain APS characterization on Stryker.

Government testing on Abrams will begin in January and is estimated to cost $11 million. Another $11 million will cover government testing of APS aboard Stryker starting in March, according to budget documents.

Several programs in the Army’s 2018 research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) budget are aimed at characterizing, developing and installing APS on combat vehicles, including $83.8 million for “Project XU9”, which seeks the capability for vehicles to “effectively detect, track, divert, disrupt, neutralize or destroy incoming direct or indirect fired threat munitions.”

That $83.8 million is broken down into costs for engineering, logistics and program management to mature APS kit designs for each vehicle. The budget submission calls for $36.8 million to build Abrams APS prototypes and systems, performance and safety training necessary for a UMR. That process for Bradley, including development of APS operating software common to all variants, is budgeted at $30 million. The remaining $17 million supports the UMR for Stryker.

“Current solutions to defeat these threats, Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) and Slat armor, do not provide preemptive or active protection and impose secondary blast hazards to crew, dismounted soldiers, and adjacent vehicles and equipment,” the budget document reads. “The Active Protection System Project (XU9) will install and characterize Non-Developmental Item (NDI) Active Protection Systems on Abrams, Bradley, and Stryker demonstrator vehicles.”

That APS effort will assess the maturity, performance, and integration risk of NDI Active Protection Systems, develop and refine Abrams, Bradley, and Stryker APS installation kit designs, and build prototypes necessary to conduct performance and safety testing in support of an APS urgent materiel release (UMR). The Active Protection System NDI effort will also serve to inform the Vehicle Protection Suite (VPS) analysis of alternatives (AoA), the Army says.

VPS will begin characterization of the MAPS controller with both soft-kill and hard-kill countermeasures to inform the AoA. The analysis will consider cost, maturity, complexity, performance and physical properties of alternative survivability sets to support a materiel development decision (MDD) in fiscal 2019, according to the Army’s budget. Informed by the results of the MDD, Source Selection Evaluation Boards will be empaneled in fiscal 2019 to select vendors that will mature common MAPS components and integrate tailored MAPS-compliant survivability sets onto ground combat vehicle platforms. The VPS platform integration contracts are planned for award in the first quarter of fiscal 2020.

Another small $5.4 million RDT&E line item calls for “active protection modeling and technologies” that aims to develop an APS common architecture “to reduce vehicle weight while significantly increasing protection against current and emerging advanced threats by reducing reliance on armor through other means such as sensing, warning and active countermeasures.”

“The APS common architecture will provide adaptable APS solutions that can be integrated across Army vehicle platforms as required,” the budget document says. “This research includes the development of new modeling and simulation capabilities along with supporting experimental and theoretical approaches to enable active protective systems.”

Plans for fiscal 2018 include comparing simulation and experimental results of soft kill physical demonstrations; computationally investigate performance of layered hardkill concepts with adaptive protection mechanisms; and simulate counter-counter measures against specific hard-kill/ soft kill solutions.