Testing of the anti-guided missile shield the Army has chosen for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle has been pushed into January because of difficulty marrying the Iron Fist active protection system to the platform.

The Army’s ground combat systems program office (PEO GCS) has spent months installing the Iron Fist APS on a hybrid A3/4 version of the Bradley in anticipation of a six-month “characterization” campaign. During that time, the Army will assess whether Iron Fist can detect, track and destroy incoming anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) and advanced rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) as advertised.

Iron Fist is made by Israeli Military Industries (IMI), which has partnered with General Dynamics [GD] to offer the system to the U.S. government. Characterization of Iron Fist on Bradley was scheduled to begin Nov. 14, but has been pushed back because of unspecified “technical challenges,” according to PEO GCS.

Troopers from the 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, observe from a Bradley Fighting Vehicle during the readiness demonstration, Presidenski Range, Trzebian, Poland, Sep. 25. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Shiloh Capers)
Troopers from the 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, observe from a Bradley Fighting Vehicle during the readiness demonstration, Presidenski Range, Trzebian, Poland, Sep. 25. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Shiloh Capers)

“Due to continued technical challenges, the Iron Fist system on Bradley has not yet completed contractor tuning and indicated readiness to enter government characterization,” Ashley Givens, a PEO GCS spokesperson, told Defense Daily in an emailed statement. “We have paused tuning activity to allow the contractor time to address their challenges and will resume activity once they express their readiness to enter characterization.”

A specific target date to begin characterization is not set, but the delay “most likely means a start of government characterization in January, with our likely decision point in spring 2018.”

Bradley manufacturer BAE Systems is working with the Army to prepare vehicles for installation of Iron Fist. The effort has met challenges that include finding space for the countermeasure launchers and associated radars on the Bradley’s small, crowded turret.

“As part of the expedited APS effort, we are collaborating with PEO GCS and TARDEC to integrate and characterize the IMI Iron Fist APS system onto a Bradley vehicle,” a BAE spokesperson told Defense Daily in an emailed statement. “The integration is completing and characterization testing will begin in January.”

Iron Fist – a smaller, lighter evolution of the Trophy APS being installed on the Abrams tank – is equally capable but better suited to fit the space, power and weight constraints of the Bradley. Trophy is manufactured by Israeli defense firm Rafael and marketed in the U.S. by Leonardo DRS. At 1,320 pounds including two dual-tube countermeasure launchers, four radar/infrared sensors and control units, the first-generation Iron Fist weighs half what Trophy does.

Iron Fist Light Configuration (IF-LC) – which is being installed on Bradley – weighs less again by half, adding just 550 pounds to the vehicle. That system houses the countermeasure launcher/jammer and radar/IR sensors in a single bolt-on unit. IMI and GD also have developed a “decoupled” version of Iron Fist Light that features separate launchers and sensors that can operate with other active and passive APS components.

The recently passed compromise National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2018  filled an unfunded requirements for $111 million to recapitalize an infantry battalion’s worth of Bradleys to the M2A4 configuration, which is necessary for the installation of Iron Fist, according to PEO GCS. The Army did not request funding for that purpose in its initial fiscal 2018 request to Congress.

The NDAA allotted a total of $444 million to Bradley modifications and another $200 million in overseas contingency operations funding under the European Reassurance Initiative. Bradley modifications are funded a further $30 million in war funding.

When testing gets underway in January, it will be the Army’s first look at the IF-LC APS in action. The system has been chosen as the hard-kill component of the Army’s Modular Active Protection System (MAPS), envisioned as a modular, open-architecture baseline configuration for combat vehicles into which sensors and countermeasures can be plugged as they emerge or as suits a particular combat situation or vehicle.

Lockheed Martin [LMT] is on contract to develop the MAPS open architecture processor, the brain that will control the system as it detects, identifies, tracks, defeats and/or destroys incoming guided munitions. Under the umbrella “suite of survivability enhancement systems,” the NDAA authorized $133.6 million, up from $98.6 million in the Army’s initial 2018 request.

Of that, $25 million will go to expanding the installation of APS under the Army’s non-developmental program that also include mounting the Iron Curtain system on a Stryker wheeled fighting vehicle. Another $10 million is earmarked for MAPS.