Army officials are eager to provide combat vehicles with Active Protection Systems (APS) that intercept enemy rockets and guided missiles, but significant engineering work is needed before U.S. tanks and personnel carriers can mount even existing APS.

Maj. Gen. David Bassett, program executive officer for ground combat systems, said APS “is not the kind of thing you just strap on and go.” Each vehicle presents a different shape and size area that onboard radars have to scan and protect and countermeasures must be mounted different places on different vehicles, he said.

“It has got to be tailored and tuned to the system you apply it to,” Bassett told reporters at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual exposition in Washington, D.C. “It takes some work. It takes some engineering labor to do that. We’re doing that work today. … The timelines associated with putting APS on a vehicle that we are working towards are extraordinarily fast. You have to source the effectors and then you have to match it to the platform. Matching it to the platform is not something that is either trivial or short.”

Col. Glenn Dean, who manages the Stryker vehicle fleet, is taking point on the expedited effort to field a near-term APS on several combat vehicles. The effort is parallel with early development of the modular active protection system (MAPS) program of record, but seeks to characterize for potential deployment non-developmental APS in the near term.

While MAPS matures a common software architecture that ties together vehicle-mounted sensors, processors and threat countermeasures, the expedited effort moves up other work like design and engineering work necessary to install APS on different vehicles, Dean said.

The Army plans to characterize APS on Bradley, Stryker and Abrams within a year. While Dean coordinates the effort across the Ground Combat Systems fleet, each vehicle project manager is in charge of installation and characterization of the systems designated for their particular platforms.

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.

The first six months will consist of designing and building the A-Kit hardware necessary to mount various APS subsystems onto the vehicles, Dean said. The second six months will be spent characterizing the system performance for each system-vehicle pairing, he said.

“How do you go faster? Take a bunch of those activities that you need to learn and prepare for and bring them up more or less parallel with technology development,” he said. “Expedited active protection is an activity to take non-developmental or claimed non-developmental active protection systems, install them on our combat platforms, characterize them so we can define both what the active protection systems do and what the impacts are on the host platform.”

The Army in late 2017 plans to lay out what it found during the characterization trials to include system performance, whether they meet established safety standards and how much space each takes up and weight and power demand each adds to the vehicle.

“If there is an urgent need and there is sufficient acceptance of their level of performance, then we can move on potentially to fielding one of those NDI systems as an interim until we transition to a MAPS baseline,” Dean said.