The Army recently awarded Lockheed Martin [LMT] $8.5 million in contracts to develop an open-architecture controller to coordinate systems that protect armored vehicles from incoming enemy rockets.

The seemingly minuscule outlays are part of a larger program to protect vehicles from proliferating shoulder-fired ordnance without weighing them down with armor or having to develop platforms from the ground up to contend with specific emerging threats. 

Lockheed Martin is developing the central processor for the Army’s modular active protection system (MAPS), which will protect ground vehicles from incoming threats the same way the common infrared countermeasures system (CIRCM) will protect rotorcraft from laser-guided weapons. Both systems are designed to be modular and with open architectures so they are compatible with both current and emerging technology.

The company in September netted a $5.2 million for work on the processor hardware and in November secured a $3.3 million contract to continue development of the controller software.  

An active protection system provides force protection through a set of sensors that provide 360-degree coverage against incoming threats. When an incoming threat is detected –an anti-tank missile, say – a central processor identifies it, calculates from where it was fired and its incoming trajectory and then automatically deploys countermeasures to defeat the threat.

The controller processes information from sensors mounted on the outside of an armored vehicle and relays information on incoming threats to an array of self-defense systems that launch countermeasures to protect the vehicle. It enables MAPS to autonomously or semi-autonomously detect and defeat inbound threats like rocket propelled grenades and other anti-tank weapons.

Under the MAPS demonstrator controller phase 2 contracts, Lockheed Martin will continue development of both the software and open-architecture hardware elements of a rapid counter-measure capability that protects vehicles against incoming threats. Lockheed Martin will deliver four controller units to TARDEC, said Doug Garbark, the company’s fire control business development manager. Three prototype controllers were to TARDEC in August for evaluation under a previous contract.

The open architecture design of the controller allows it to operate with a variety of sensors and integration into any vehicle, Garbark said. The processor hardware incorporates commercial, off-the-shelf embedded processor modules

“The processor is ground vehicle agnostic and supports development of a cross-platform mission equipment capability that integrates various sensors and countermeasures,” he told Defense Daily in an email. “The controller’s open architecture permits upgrades to occur seamlessly as new processing cards become available, thus reducing overall life cycle and development costs.” 

The Army has specified that MAPS components incorporate modular, open architecture systems so that sensors and active protection devices can be swapped out as technology progresses.

“We are developing a controller that enables the U.S. Army to implement active protection systems that are free of the restrictions imposed by proprietary technologies,” said Paul Lemmo, vice president of Fire Control/SOF CLSS at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “Not only does the controller provide ample processing power, but its open-architecture design allows the Army to interchange sensors and self-defense systems as technology advances or new threats emerge.”  

Rafael’s Trophy active protection system (APS) and its light-vehicle specific cousin called the Trophy LV are the only battle proven APS on the market, but other options exist.  The basic Trophy model is in current use by Israeli combat brigades on Merkava IV tanks and has effectively performed in combat since its introduction in 2009. The system provides 360-degree protection from all incoming anti-armor threats by deploying a series of shaped charges at incoming projectiles and the LV version is light enough to integrate easily onto wheeled combat vehicles.

Raytheon’s Quick Kill APS that has successfully destroyed inbound RPGs during testing. The Army has successfully tested the Iron Curtain APS developed by Artis against RPGs. Other companies are reportedly working on APS that use directed energy instead of “hard kill” countermeasures.

Lockheed’s processor will be compatible with whichever APS sensors and countermeasures the Army chooses because it uses widely-supported standard interfaces that allow maintainers to add, upgrade and swap out sensor and display system components as required, according to Lockheed Martin.

“Open architecture and a modular framework enable interchangeable systems and eliminate the need for multiple proprietary processors that compete for a platform’s limited space, weight and power.”