The Army is starting a new search for an active protection system (APS) to integrate on its Bradley fighting vehicles, casting doubt on the future of its test program with the Iron Fist system following continued schedule delays and installation issues.

Officials posted a request for information notice on Tuesday calling for industry information on mature, ready-to-deploy APS that could provide anti-missile shield capabilities for its Bradley fleet.

A Bradley Fighting Vehicle crew with 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas, drives to an objective during Iron Union 18-6 in the United Arab Emirates, Jan. 23, 2018.   (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Thomas X. Crough, U.S. ARCENT PAO)
A Bradley Fighting Vehicle crew with 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division

“This APS shall have been proven and characterized on the Bradley Family of Vehicles,” the Army wrote in the RFI. “This will be accomplished through the procurement of a B-Kit, consisting of the system and countermeasures.”

Army officials had been testing the Iron First APS, built by Israel’s IMI Industries in partnership with General Dynamics [GD], on Bradleys, but the program has faced integration challenges and technical delays (Defense Daily, Nov. 2017).

Col. Glenn Dean, lead official for the Army’s vehicle protection systems effort, told reporters in August the Bradley APS evaluation was moving forward as planned while acknowledging the program had faced funding and live-fire testing setbacks (Defense Daily, Aug. 24).

“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 Fist on the Bradley platform,” Dean said at the time.

It is unclear if the new RFI signals the end of the Iron First program for Bradley. An Army spokeswoman did not immediately reply to an inquiry regarding the system’s future.

The Army has faced challenges outfitting its vehicles with APS capabilities that avoid adding weight and potentially knocking turrets off balance.

Several companies, including Leonardo DRS, have tested lighter systems on adapting existing APS for smaller vehicles.

Leonardo DRS and Israel’s Rafael earlier this year completed live-fire qualification for a lighter version of the companies’ Trophy APS with Bradleys (Defense Daily, Sept. 24).

The Army had previously awarded Leonardo DRS a $193 million deal in June to test Trophy on its Abrams tanks.

The updated version of Trophy is 40 percent lighter and achieves a protection-to-weight ratio that would meet requirements for both Bradleys and Strykers, Leonardo officials said.