U.S. Army tanks have in recent months been deployed to Europe armed with the evolving Trophy Active Protection System (Trophy APS) engineered to protect armored vehicles by instantly detecting, tracking and destroying incoming enemy rounds such as rocket-propelled grenades or Anti-Tank-Guided Missiles.
Using what developers say is a 360-degree radar with a processor and on-board computer engineered with an advanced fire-control system sufficient to make nearly instant threat determinations, the DRS-Rafael Trophy APS system is designed to protect armored vehicles from potentially catastrophic threats.
First, the system’s radar scans the entire perimeter of the platform out to a known range. When a threat penetrates that range, the system then detects and classifies that threat and tells the on-board computer which determines the optical kill point in space, developers say.
Trophy was previously deployed in combat several years ago in Gaza on Israeli Defense Forces’ Merkava tanks. A brigade’s worth of tanks used Trophy to destroy approaching enemy fire such as RPGs in a high-clutter urban environment. Several years ago, DRS developers told The National Interest that Trophy performed very well in combat by engaging and destroying incoming enemy fire with little to no collateral damage to vehicle crew members. This fact is crucial because, over the years, one of the key challenges with APS has been described as involving protocol and meaning finding ways to make sure the explosion to intercept and destroy the incoming enemy rounds does not happen in close proximity to vehicle crew members or nearby infantry.
While the Trophy system was primarily designed to track and destroy approaching enemy fire, it also provides the additional benefit of locating the position of an enemy shooter by using what’s called a slew-to-cue wherein the main gun can vector with sights to wherever the threat came from. The Israelis developed Trophy upon realizing that tanks could not simply be given more heavy armor without greatly minimizing their maneuverability and deployability, developers explained.
Last summer, a U.S. Army Europe spokesman, the 18th Military Police Brigade drew, told Task and Purpose that the Army installed and fielded the Trophy system from the Army Prepositioned Stock onto eight M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks at the Bergen-Hohne Training Area in Germany.
What might this mean for armored warfare? A number of interesting things, including an increased mechanized force-on-force role for the Abrams tank, an upgraded 1980s platform likely to face newer kinds of armor-piercing anti-tank munitions in coming years. An APS system such as Trophy might enable an Abrams to advance into enemy areas otherwise not possible and bring additional protection to large, armored formations.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.