By Ann Roosevelt

After a year of testing, the short-range countermeasure portion of the Army Future Combat Systems’ (FCS) layered survivability approach successfully completed an end-to-end system test and moves another step toward prototypes.

"It’s our first end-to-end system test and defeat of an RPG in a relevant environment," Maj. Lewis Phillips, Army FCS assistant product manager for Hit Avoidance, told Defense Daily. "We’re going to continue to build on that and then in October we’re going to add the final subcomponent of the short range countermeasure and an additional end-to-end test in a relevant environment."

"The whole process, you have to think about everything happening within a second," David Martin, Raytheon [RTN] director of Combat Protection Systems, said. The system is fully autonomous; there is no human involvement.

The boost portion of the countermeasure will be added in the fall as the testing continues its crawl, walk, run effort, Phillips said.

"We’re on schedule to provide prototypes for the manned ground vehicles within the FCS program to integrate on the manned ground vehicles for testing, Phillips said. "We’re looking to provide those prototypes for the hit avoidance system in the 2010-2011 timeframe."

The short-range countermeasure is one component of the overall hit avoidance system; a key component in the survivability approach for FCS manned ground vehicles.

Jeff Pete, Boeing [BA] Lead System Integrator (LSI) Lead for Hit Avoidance, said BAE Systems and General Dynamics [GD] Land Systems lead the manned ground vehicle work under the Boeing-SAIC [SAI] LSI team. The survivability team determined early on that to achieve the weight objectives for the vehicles required alternate technologies rather than adding more armor for more protection. A search for the best technologies led to responses from 21 different companies worldwide. Raytheon won the competition and quickly moved to a study that determined a vertical launch architecture was the only way to meet FCS requirements for active protection.

The team moved forward developing the vertical launch system for active protection. That presented challenges in meeting requirements, getting the countermeasure vertically launched, pointing toward the target and getting to the target along the timelines required was technically very challenging, he said.

Phillips said having a countermeasure that can address a threat to the vehicle from any direction allows redundancy in coverage, thus a need for fewer countermeasures, and it can be mounted vertically on the vehicle, as opposed to having to compete for scarce space on top of the vehicles with other subcomponents.

In fact, Pete said, "This system is actually one of several common subsystems for all of the variants of the manned ground vehicle, so it goes on every one of them in some form."

"We’ve been working toward a design verification test of that architecture, and that’s what we reached a significant technical milestone a couple of weeks ago where we intercepted a threat on the move with the vertical launch architecture," Pete said. "That has cleared the major hurdle we’ve had in being able to do it within the timelines that are required."

Martin said throughout calendar year 2008 subcomponent testing was done to validate each of the individual parts that make up the active protection countermeasure.

"The timeline is very, very important, besides that, the repeatability of the process is important to achieve the accuracy that we need to go be effective against the threat," Martin said.

With requirements of subcomponent testing satisfied, the next step was the end-to-end system test, conducted at Redstone Technical Test Center, Ala., July 17 and 23.

"That test consisted of an autonomous detection of an incoming threat, the tracking of that threat and the defeat of that threat from the countermeasure," Martin said. "The detection and track was achieved through one of the other sensors…the multifunction RF system. This particular scenario that we ran was technically significant we conducted both a static platform test and defeated a threat as well as moving that platform to emulate an on-the-move environment."

The target was moving in both tests. The active protection system was located on a moveable platform towed by a remote control Bradley.

Phillips said the short-range active protection system could potentially be applied to a current force platform.

Phillips said the hit avoidance architecture groups components and subsystems in three categories: the processor, "essentially the brain of the hit avoidance system;" sensors that detect, identify and track threats coming into the vehicles and move the information back to the processing subsystems and software and determines the appropriate response in the form of a countermeasure. The final category is countermeasures, both short and long range.

Paul Mehney, FCS program spokesman, said, "the Army is in a position now to take a look–as technology matures–at the APS platform and make a determination on what types of vehicles this could go on."

Some analysis is likely to be done on this short range APS system to make a determination on integration, power, form, fit, also determine the threat environment and where it could fit best over the coming years as the technology matures, Mehney says.