America's M1 Abrams Tanks are Getting a Big Upgrade: 'Shields'
The Army has purchased an emerging technology for Abrams tanks, Bradleys and Strykers designed to give combat vehicles an opportunity identify, track and destroy approaching enemy rocket-propelled grenades in a matter of milliseconds, service officials said.
Called Active Protection Systems, or APS, the technology uses sensors and radar, computer processing, fire control technology and interceptors to find, target and knock down or intercept incoming enemy fire such as RPGs and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, or ATGMs. Systems of this kind have been in development for many years, however the rapid technological progress of enemy tank rounds, missiles and RPGs is leading the Army to more rapidly test and develop APS for its fleet of Abrams tanks.
“The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army's Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.
The idea is to arm armored combat vehicles and tactical wheeled vehicles with additional protective technology to secure platforms and soldiers from enemy fire; vehicles slated for use of APS systems are infantry fighting vehicles such as Bradleys along with Stykers, Abrams tanks and even tactical vehicles such as transport trucks and the emerging Humvee replacement, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
DRS Technologies and Israeli-based Rafael Advanced Defense Systems are working with the U.S. Army to consider acquiring their recently combat-tested Trophy Active Protection System, a vehicle-mounted technology engineered to instantly locate and destroy incoming enemy fire.
Army has purchased a number of Trophy APS systems, and a number of another kind of system as well, to evaluate them, including one called "Iron Fist," also from Israel, and another from a U.S.-based manufacturer called "Iron Curtain," service statements said.
The Army aims to put Iron Curtain on a Stryker, Iron Fist on a Bradley, and Trophy on an Abrams tank, to evaluate their effectiveness.
"The one that is farthest along in terms of installing it is ... Trophy on Abrams," Lt. Gen. John Murray, Deputy Chief of Staff, Army G-8, said in a written statement. "We're getting some pretty ... good results. It adds to the protection level of the tank. Trophy has an interesting capability, slew to cue. We're finding that we can incorporate that into the installation on the Abrams."
Iron Fist on the Bradley is also "moving along," Murray said. The service is working on installing the system on the Bradley - considering to the size, weight, and power requirements of the system and the amount of space available on top of the turret of the vehicle.
APS systems, he said come with additional considerations. In particular, he said, are considerations for the safety of Soldiers alongside the vehicles who are dismounted.
"As we do this, the interesting thing is going to be safety concerns," Murray said. "Anything that shoots off an armored vehicle, 'x' amount of meters, and makes something blow up, is not good for the integrated dismounted/mounted operations. So we have some concerns about tactics, techniques, and procedures and how we adjust those."
The Army's expedited APS effort is being managed by a coordinated team of Tank Automotive Research, Development & Engineering Center engineers, acquisition professionals, and industry; it is intended to assess current APS state-of-the art by installing and characterizing some existing non-developmental APS systems on Army combat vehicles, Army officials said.
General Dynamics Land Systems, maker of Abrams tanks, is working with the Army to better integrate the Trophy APS into the subsystems of the Abrams tank, as opposed to merely using an applique system, Mike Peck, Business Development Manager, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Peck said General Dynamics is testing Trophy on the Abrams tank this year.
Being engineered as among the most survivable and heavily armored vehicles in existence, the Abrams tank is built to withstand a high degree of enemy fire, such some enemy tank rounds, RPGs, rockets and missiles. Abrams tanks can also carry reactive armor, material used to explode incoming enemy fire in a matter that protects the chassis and crew of the vehicle itself.
However, depending upon the range, speed and impact location of enemy fire, there are some weapons which still pose a substantial threat to Abrams tanks. Therefore, having an APS system which could knock out enemy rounds before they hit the tank, without question, adds an additional layer of protection for the tank and crew. A particular threat area for Abrams tanks is the need the possibility of having enemy rounds hit its ammunition compartment, thereby causing a damaging secondary explosion.
APS on Abrams tanks, quite naturally, is the kind of protective technology which could help US Army tanks in tank-on-tank mechanized warfare against near-peer adversary tanks, such as a high-tech Russian T-14 Armata tank. According to a report in The National Interest from Dave Majumdar (Click Here for Story), Russian T-14s are engineered with an unmanned turret, reactive armor and Active Protection Systems.