The Netherlands will be the first NATO country to provide advanced guided-missile shields for armored vehicles when it installs active protection systems (APS) on its CV90 armored fighting vehicles.
BAE Systems recently was awarded a contract to test and verify the integration of APS aboard its CV90 infantry fighting vehicles. It is the original manufacturer of the Dutch CV9035 variant and will lead the integration of the system, which is designed to intercept incoming rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) and other threats, which allows increased survivability and crew protection without adding bulky armor.
Unlike other NATO nations considering APS integration on armored vehicles – including the United States – the Dutch military already has chosen the Iron Fist APS, developed by Israeli Military Industries (IMI). The rush to find and field non-developmental APS aboard combat vehicles was inspired by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, when NATO members witnessed that country’s advanced ATGM and RPG capabilities and realized they had little defense against them.
The U.S. Army has two parallel programs underway to first field a non-developmental APS on Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Abrams tanks and Stryker wheeled combat vehicles. It then will adopt a standard, modular system that can be routinely upgraded with emerging sensor and processing technologies.
The Netherlands will join Israel as the only other Western country with a fielded APS system. Israeli Merkava IV tanks are outfitted with the Trophy APS designed by Rafael.
“During this test phase we will pre-qualify the active system against our threat specification, and together with our partners analyze system safety and prepare for its integration onto our CV9035NL vehicles,” Hans de Goeij, project manager at the Netherlands Defense Ministry’s Defense Materiel Organization, said in a prepared statement. “We expect to make a decision on the next phase by early 2018. With Iron Fist, the Netherlands is expected to become the first NATO country with an Active Protection System of its kind on combat vehicles.”
Iron Fist uses radar and infrared sensors to locate, identify and track incoming threats and then deploys appropriate soft- and/or hard-kill countermeasures to defeat or destroy the missile before it reaches the vehicle. The process, as with all APS designs on the market, is automatic and nearly instantaneous. BAE was chosen also to install Iron Fist on Dutch CV90s after the test and evaluation period, the company said.
“Iron Fist will give the Dutch Army a highly sophisticated defensive tool on its CV90s to counter threats and improve the safety of the vehicle and its crew,” Tommy Gustafsson-Rask, managing director of Sweden-based BAE Systems Hägglunds, said in a prepared statement. “Iron Fist is yet another example of the advanced technology BAE Systems and its partners can deliver to our customers.”
Iron Fist is in advanced development at IMI, according to the company’s website. The company has installed the system for demonstrations in light and heavy armored vehicles and was selected by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as the Active Protection System designed to protect the Namer heavy infantry fighting vehicle.
The Army this month will begin characterization of various APS designs aboard its own combat vehicles. IMI’s Iron Fist non-developmental APS is being tested aboard the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, manufactured by BAE.
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) and DRS Technologies’ Trophy APS – manufactured by Israeli company Rafael – will be installed for test aboard M1 Abrams tanks.