The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) has provided an infusion of cash for the Army to buy Active Protections Systems (APS) for its combat vehicles, adding $94 million for off-the-shelf missile shields in its markup of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.
In total, SASC set aside just under $1.3 billion for lethality and survivability upgrades to the Army’s M1 Abrams, Bradley Fighting Vehicle and Stryker wheeled vehicle fleets. Of that, $94 million is prescribed specifically for APS.
The Senate bill nearly mirrors the House version released a week earlier. Both are in response to an Army call for emergency funding to purchase systems capable of defeating advanced anti-tank guided missiles, which Russia and other potential adversaries are known to possess.
HASC laid out $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 some APS gear on the M1 tank, and Bradley and Stryker fighting vehicles.
Another $10 million was set aside by HASC for research and development efforts related to APS, which will cover testing and integration of existing systems on Army vehicles.
Plans are to have identified and fielded a viable, non-developmental APS technology on Abrams, Bradley and Stryker within two years. An industry source said efforts to test and integrate existing APS has been invigorated since Congress advertised its approval through the spending bills.
“It has evolved over the last couple of weeks, especially since the HASC mark,” he told Defense Daily.
A program to integrate Trophy onto Abrams tanks is the only funded APS effort and is in installation design. Testing is scheduled to begin before the end of 2016 and a decision on whether to launch a procurement program in early 2017.
Both the Army and Marine Corps are integrating Trophy onto their M1 Abrams main battle tanks, though the two parallel efforts are funded under separate contracts and from separate pots of money. Marine Corps officials have mentioned Trophy by name, but Army officials have not publicly declared which systems are being eyed for which vehicles.
The services’ intentions for putting Trophy on Army M1A2 and Marine Corps M1A1 tanks are the same. The efforts will mirror each other in terms of installation, but each service’s tanks are unique in their network and command-and-control suites.
The Marines will piggyback on live-fire APS testing the Army conducts, but will also perform a bevy of service-specific evaluations of Trophy related to its deployment and use in an expeditionary, maritime environment. Those tests will take longer, perhaps well into 2017, he said.
“The Marines are being a little more thorough, a little more regimented in their analysis and their taking their time,” the source said of the Marine Corps. “Their intent…is let’s put a system on our tank and instead of shooting at it, we’ll put it in the hands of some Marines, take it out to the field and let them get used to operating a tank with an APS on it…Equally important is how it affects them logistically. How does it affect them when they put these things on ships? The countermeasures are energetics. Are they sensitive enough to go on ships?”
“Those are all things that are nuanced to the Marine Corps, the marinized aspects that the Marines want to look at that the Army, frankly, doesn’t care about.”
The Army is ready to kick off integration and testing efforts of APS on other vehicles, namely Bradley and Stryker, but it has no funding stream open to do so. While the Army’s fiscal year 2017 base budget request includes APS research and development funding, there is no funding immediately available.
Money from the NDAA will be available in fiscal 2017 to begin a “characterization plan” of other APS technologies on Bradley and Stryker. Based on tensions overseas, particularly in Europe, the Army might well accelerate that program by requesting a reprogramming or under an emergency funding request like it has done with integration of Trophy on Abrams. To start testing earlier, the Army will request an above-threshold reprogramming within its current fiscal year budget so testing can begin before the end of the fiscal year in October.
Depending on the available funding–either through a reprogramming or once a continuing resolution is approved in October, APS integration testing on Stryker and Bradley could begin anywhere from August to January, the source said.
The Army is eyeing the Iron Fist APS system made by Israel Military Industries (IMI) for Bradley and the Artis Iron Curtain–originally a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program–for Stryker. 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.
The characterization plan is an effort to establish a baseline understanding of existing APS technologies and performance, but the Army has said nothing about which systems might be fielded or when. The tech evaluation has no procurement funding attached and therefore may or may not result in a fielded technology.
Trophy is being fast-tracked to the field aboard Abrams because it is the only system that has performed as advertised in combat, aboard Israeli Merkava tanks during the 2014 Gaza conflict.