The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) has heeded the Army’s call for Active Protections Systems (APS) for its combat vehicles, adding $90 million for off-the-shelf missile shields in its markup of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.
In its markup of the 2017 NDAA released Monday, HASC prescribed $80 million for an unfunded Army requirement for “vehicle APS,” which would pay for a number of existing systems like Trophy, a battle-proven APS for tanks developed by Israeli firm Rafael and modified for U.S. military use by DRS Technologies. That line item would pay for APS on the M1 tank, and Bradley and Stryker fighting vehicles.
Another $10 million was set aside for research and development efforts related to APS, which will cover testing and integration of existing systems on Army vehicles.
Paying for the needed APS systems with money added to its budget by Congress is considered extremely risky, according to Army documents detailing the pursuit of APS for combat vehicles obtained by Defense Daily. If funded through the NDAA currently wending through Congress, there is no guarantee the funding pool will be continued in subsequent budget legislation, which risks “major program alignment disconnects.”
Using Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding to buy APS also was considered high risk, according to the documents.
Lower-risk options considered by the Army included using research, development, technology and engineering funds available through a partnership with TARDEC. Another option was to use war funding in fiscal years 2018-2019 or a Long-Range Investment Requirements Analysis for an APS system in that year’s Program Objective Memorandum (POM).
Senior Army officials have been sounding the alarm about Russia anti-tank guided missiles, which creates a dire need for APS on Stryker, Bradley and M1s in Europe. The Army is eyeing non-developmental APS that could be fielded sooner than its ongoing program of record, the modular active protection system (MAPS), but has not come up with funding for the equipment.
Trophy is the only APS that has been proven in combat. Israeli Merkava tanks were outfitted with the system during the 2014 Gaza conflict where they successfully destroyed incoming missile threats in highly congested urban combat, Mike O’Leary, director of advanced concepts at DRS, told Defense Daily in a recent interview.
The system incorporates both soft- and hard-kill missile countermeasures. Soft-kill systems either disguise a vehicle from an incoming threat or spoof or damage its homing ability by electronic means. Hard-kill systems provide a secondary level of protection that physically destroy incoming projectiles before they reach the vehicle and ideally before detonation.
Other available systems include the Iron Curtain APS developed by Virginia-based R&D firm Artis but originated from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The system uses C-band radar to detect incoming rocket-propelled grenade rounds and alerts a countermeasures subsystem that locks onto the projectile and disables it before detonation.
Raytheon [RTN] also has developed an APS technology that includes both hard- and soft-kill missile countermeasures. Raytheon officials have said their system is ready for immediate integration and testing on tanks and tactical vehicles.
Boosting APS funding is one element of the Defense Department’s overall European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) aimed at supporting NATO allies in the face of Russian aggression along the alliance’s eastern flank. Other elements include spending increases for intelligence and early warning capabilities, the Javelin missile system, aircraft survivability systems and “recommended at the Army’s request, a realignment of funds within the ERI for the procurement of upgraded Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles,” according to the NDAA markup.