During the 'second Lebanon war' in mid-2006 Hezbollah fighters used Russian, Chinese and North Korean anti-tank weapons to damage ten per cent of the 400 or so Merkava tanks deployed by Israel; the 30 tank crewmembers killed during the conflict represented one-quarter of the service's casualties.
The proliferation of cheap and easy-to-operate shoulder-launched rocket-propelled grenades has also taken other forces deployed around the world by surprise, and Major General Benjamin Gantz, head of Israel's Land Forces Command, stated that the introduction of an advanced active protection system (APS) for armoured fighting vehicle crews was one of his priorities.
A 'hard-kill' active system must be able to detect and track an incoming threat, calculate the timing of the response and launch a countermeasure before the incoming missile or projectile strikes the vehicle; response times are measured in milliseconds. Threats cover a broad spectrum from chemical energy weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades fired at point-blank range to kinetic-energy projectiles such as long-rod penetrators fired from high-velocity tank guns several kilometres away as well as top-attack weapons.
While the Russians pioneered such devices, notably through the KBM Arena, European manufacturers (some via South Africa) are now deeply involved in the development of active protection systems that are lighter and less risky to use in terms of collateral damage.
Earlier this year Israel began installing production examples of the Trophy system on its most modern tank, the Merkava Mk 4. The Trophy is the product of a ten-year collaborative development project between Rafael and Israel Aerospace Industries-Elta, funded by the Israeli Ministry of Defense. The Trophy consists of a threat detection and tracking subsystem, including four Elta flat-panel radars positioned around the platform to provide complete coverage, and a hard-kill subsystem. When a threat is identified the optimal intercept point is automatically calculated, the countermeasures assembly is opened and an interceptor is launched which forms a 'beam' of fragments to intercept the threat at a range of 10 to 30 metres from the vehicle. A munition will only be launched when the tracking sensors confirm a missile or rocket is a threat to the vehicle.
A Rafael spokesman states, <<More than 450 live tests were conducted with prototypes and dozens more were conducted with the Merkava Mk 4 integrated system>>. Work on enhancing the Trophy to defeat kinetic energy projectile threats is now at Technology Readiness Level 3 or 4, according to Rafael. The Trophy can deal with multiple threats simultaneously and features an automatic reload facility. The system is designed to pose a low risk of collateral damage with computer simulations indicating that the risk to nearby personnel is less than one per cent. The Trophy system weighs less than 454 kg and at the DSEi exhibition in September 2007 Rafael unveiled the Trophy Light, which is approximately half the weight and volume of the standard system and is intended for integration with lighter platforms.
The US Office of Force Transformation funded the integration of the Trophy on the Full Spectrum Effects Platform (Fsep), based on the General Dynamics Land System Stryker, being developed under Project Sheriff. During a demonstration in February 2006 the Trophy simultaneously shot down two incoming RPGs. When it assumed handed management of the Sheriff project the US Army dropped the Trophy stating that it was technically immature; it was a move which attracted considerable criticism in the media and Congress. However, the Trophy has been selected for the US Marine Corps' Wolf Pack Platoon initiative to develop an Fsep for use in urban operations. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division stated on the Federal Business Opportunities website on 20 November 2007 that the Trophy had been selected as the sole source APS for the project because it, "is the only known device currently available that demonstrates a high technical maturity level of TRL 9 and robust logistics trail incumbent with current fielding activities and has demonstrated performance versus multiple threats with validated test data". No further details had been cleared for public release as this issue was being prepared for press.
Israel is evaluating the Iron Fist from Israel Military Industries. This system is designed to protect a wide range of platforms against RPG and other shaped-charge warheads, but also kinetic energy projectiles. The Iron Fist uses an IAI-Elta radar sensor and an optional passive infrared detector developed by Elbit-Elisra which detect potential threats and then measures distance and trajectory, allowing the control unit to calculate an engagement solution. An interceptor is then launched which destroys or disrupts the incoming threat without detonating its warhead. The entire engagement sequence takes less than one second. IMI has conducted 'extensive" testing of the system integrated on the M113 armoured personnel carrier.
The US Army is taking a holistic approach that combines better situational awareness, improved lethality, signature reduction, active systems and advanced lightweight armour in an effort to make 27 to 29-tonne Future Combat Systems (FCS) platforms more survivable than the 70-tonne M1A2 tanks they are intended to replace. The FCS lead systems integrator, Boeing and its partner Science Applications International (SAIC), announced on 3 March 2006 the selection of Raytheon's Network Centric Systems division to develop a hard-kill system based on its vertical launch Quick Kill system. After only six months of company-funded development work the Quick Kill destroyed an RPG launched at less than 50 metres during a test on 7 February 2006.
The Quick Kill is integrated with the Multi-function Radio Frequency System that Raytheon Network Centric Systems is developing as the common radar for FCS manned ground vehicles. The Quick Kill uses a vertical soft launch technique that eliminates concussion to the vehicle and its crew. Raytheon engineers selected this approach because a single launcher, typically loaded with eight to 16 missiles, is able to defeat threats through a full 360 [degrees] hemisphere. After launch, the 51-cm-long missile pitches over, then accelerates to the point of intercept and fires its focused blast warhead downwards to destroy the incoming threat. This angle of attack is intended to minimize the risk of collateral damage. The Quick Kill can track and counterattack 'several' threats simultaneously.
Work will be conducted in three phases. The overarching first phase, from March 2006 to September 2011, is an engineering effort to develop a robust APS architecture. The second phase, from June 2006 through September 2009, is a risk-reduction effort to develop the system for integration in vehicles now in service such as the Stryker and the BAE Systems M2/M3 Bradley. Between January 2007 and September 2011 the third phase will culminate with the complete solution, hardware and support for the first incremental delivery of prototype FCS manned ground vehicles.
The US Government Accountability Office stated in its March 2008 report 2009 Is a Critical Juncture for the Army's Future Combat System: <<According to the most recent critical technology assessment, the Army expects to mature most of the active protection system suite to TRL 6 by fiscal year 2008. The Army does not expect the active protection system sensor to mature to TRL 6 until sometime after the 2009 preliminary design review. Based on current test schedules, the Army could demonstrate TRL 6 for the short-range solution by that time. However, a number of test events for the short-range solution, some of which inform future events, have slipped. In addition, demonstration of the long-range solution to TRL 6 is not scheduled to happen until fiscal year 2010. The Army must also address the potential repercussions from blast fragmentation and the corresponding risk of collateral damage and fratricide.>>
The Department of Defense is examining other technologies that could be fitted to 'legacy' vehicles such as the AM General Humvee. The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency is funding Artis to develop the Iron Curtain, which is designed to be mounted on the roof of an Uparmoured Humvee. When a combination of radar and optical sensors detect an incoming threat a countermeasure is launched almost straight downwards to intercept the threat close to the vehicle thus reducing the risk of collateral damage.
Textron is developing the Tactical RPG Airbag Protection System (Traps) to protect lightly armoured vehicles such as the Humvee. The Traps employs a simple radar derived from a police speed gun and a modified commercial airbag system. When the radar detects an incoming RPG the system processor triggers the downward-firing airbags which are mounted in boxes either side of the vehicle's roof. The bag inflates within 30 milliseconds and absorbs the round, which is defused by an unspecified countermeasure. A Textron statement notes the RPG "remains intact, with no collateral damage or injury from fragmented projectiles". During trials conducted in April 2006 the system was shown to be effective against several combinations of RPG-7 warheads and fuzes as well as tandem warhead rockets. According to company officials the Traps is ideally suited for use in urban settings as there is virtually no risk of collateral damage. The Quick Reaction Contract Office within the Office of the Secretary of Defense provided $ 3.5 million to fund the project in 2005 and Congress added a further $ three million in the FY07 defence budget. Under development are configurations for larger platforms such as the Stryker. Although Textron will not comment on the project, the 'Dual Traps' was one of 15 projects selected in mid-2007 to receive the annual Chairman's Award for Innovation.
European companies are developing both hard and soft kill systems. Under a 21 million [euro] contract Eads Defence Electronics and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann are working on for the final development, integration, testing and qualification of the Multifunction Self-protection System (Muss) on the five pre-production Puma infantry fighting vehicles produced by Projekt System und Management, a 50:50-joint venture between Rheinmetall and KMW. The German BWB defence procurement agency has funded the development of Muss since 1997 and, if trials are successful, it could be installed on the 410 Pumas scheduled for delivery from 2009.
Four Missile/Laser Threat Alerting System units (Miltas), which employ ultraviolet missile launch signature and laser detectors, are installed on the Puma's turret and linked to an active infrared jammer and a 76-mm grenade launcher. When a threat is detected, the system responds within 1 to 1.5 seconds, activating a smoke screen or directing an infrared jamming signal toward the launching platform. The Muss provides protection in 360 [degrees] azimuth and 70 [degrees] elevation and can counter four threats simultaneously. The 76-mm Maske multispectral smoke grenade, produced by Rheinmetall Waffe Munition, is based on a bimodular concept that incorporates a rapid-reaction jamming module producing intense over-radiation utilising proven decoy technology and a long duration module producing visual and IR screening smoke.
Eads and KMW are developing the Muss Compact for installation on KMW's Fennek 4 X 4 armoured reconnaissance vehicle, Boxer 8 X 8 APC and Leopard 2 tank. The system, which has a target weight of 130 kg, includes a mast unit with four Miltas sensors and the infrared jammer unit, and eight 76-mm grenade launchers.
Rheinmetall has developed the Rosy (Rapid Obscuring SYstem) for installation on light vehicles such as the Dingo, Fennek, Mungo, Wiesel and Wolf. The modular system consists of a horizontally trainable launcher, with one to three magazine rows, that can easily be mounted on a vehicle's roof or rollover bar. The loaded launcher weighs twelve kg. The launchers, which can be linked to a sensor or initiated manually, fire 40-mm grenades that are designed to burst 32 metres from the vehicle and create a 30 X 3-metre smoke screen effective in the visual and near-infrared spectra as well as temporarily blinding systems that operate in the medium- and distant-infrared spectra. Red phosphorus smoke, CS smoke, flashbang and practice grenades are available.
Diehl has developed the Awiss to defeat RPGs and other CE munitions; it also reduces the penetration of KE warheads. It consists of a search and tracking Ka-band radar linked to a launch unit with sensor and two launchers that provide 360[degrees] coverage. The Awiss detects incoming threats at a range of 75 metres and launches a three-kg grenade to intercept the threat ten metres from the vehicle. The entire sequence takes 355 milliseconds. The complete system weighs 400 kg and extends 40 cm above the armour; a further 40 cm clearance is needed beneath the armour to install the system. The company is proposing that the Awiss be fitted to the Leopard, the Puma and other high value vehicles.
IBD Deisenroth Engineering has developed a layered Advanced Modular Armour Protection (Amap) system that includes vehicle liners, advanced armour, APS and signature management. The Amap-Active Defence System was unveiled at Eurosatory 2006 integrated on a CV90120 light tank, and Sweden's Defence Materiel Administration is using a CV9040 equipped with the Amap-ADS to define its 'Active Armour Concept'. Patria Vehicles and IBD announced at DSEi 07 that they are collaborating to increase the survivability of the Finnish company's wheeled AMV (Armoured Modular Vehicle), which has now been sold to five countries. The 8 x 8 AMV displayed at the exhibition was fitted with a complete Amap-ADS suite weighing approximately 400 kg. For this application some 30 boxes containing sensors and countermeasures are mounted around the vehicle using the original attachments for add-on armour to provide full 360[degrees] coverage. A central processing unit and manmachine interface are installed inside the vehicle. The Amap-ADS can be mounted on much smaller vehicles; Iveco Defence Vehicles Division integrated the system on its 4 x 4 LMV and demonstrated the ability of the Amap-ADS to intercept incoming RPG-7s during live ballistic testing witnessed by representatives of 'several' governments in 2007. The system is claimed to be equally effective against KE threats. The configuration for smaller vehicles requires fewer modules, thus reducing the system weight to as little as 150 kg. IDB and Patria are also working on integrating passive Amap-Improvised Explosive Devices protection on the AMV.
The Italian Ministry of Defence and Oto Melara are jointly funding the development of the two-tier Scudo. The outer tier is based on an active continuous wave X-band radar and two traversable launchers with either two or four cells. Two options are being considered for the radar installation: either installing several elements in a rotating mast or installing several elements in fixed locations around the vehicle. If the control system determines there is sufficient time one or two 70-ram interceptor rockets are launched which are then detonated by a 'smart' proximity fuse and shower thousands of tungsten balls in the path of the incoming warhead. A threat launched at short range is engaged by the inner tier of explosive tiles which discharge thousands of tungsten balls. Oto Melara expects to begin testing a prototype installation this year. The Italian Army intends that vehicles such as the Ariete tank, the Dardo tracked IFV and the Centauro family of 8 x 8 AFVs with be fitted for the Scudo so that the system can be quickly installed when required.
The Leds is the product of a co-operative effort between several South African companies led by Saab Avitronics. The first stage of the modular system was the Leds-50 sensor suite which provides hull hemispherical coverage and alerts the crew when their vehicle is being targeted by rangefinder, designator, beam-riding missile or laser dazzler threats. The Royal Netherlands Army bought the Leds-50 system to equip its 184 BAE Systems Hagglunds CV9035 Mk IIIs. The Leds100, introduced in 2004, provides a softkill capability by combining the Leds-50 with twin six-tube High Speed Directed Launchers. When set to automatic mode the Active Defence Controller activates the launch of one or more Lacroix Galix 13 multi-spectral smoke grenades which are able to produce a fully effective screen in less than 800 milliseconds 40 to 50 metres from the vehicle. At Idex in May 2007 the Leds-100 was displayed on an M60 tank modernised by Jordan's Kaddb, which plans to conduct a full evaluation this year.
The Leds-150 launches Denel Dynamics Mongoose 1 interceptor munitions to intercept guided missiles and RPGs fired as close as 20 metres and a perpendicular blast destroys the incoming threat at ranges of five to 15 metres. The company intends to have the Leds-150 ready for production in 2009. At the prototype stage is the Leds-200, which is intended to defeat threats such as top-attack munitions fitted with multi-band seekers. An Active Signature Management (ASM) subsystem dispenses a polymer-based foam that within one second alters the vehicle's signature so that a multi-band seeker breaks lock. The ASM can also defeat infrared and radio frequency detectors and be manually initiated to extinguish petrol bombs. The final phase, the Leds-300, is intended to defeat kinetic energy darts and stand-off munitions using a derivative of the Mongoose optimised to intercept these threats at least 150 metres away. Prototype interceptors, developed jointly with the South African Department of Defence, have successfully demonstrated the defeat of 105-mm penetrators in two separate trials and officials are confident that the Leds-300 will be 'market ready' by 2014. Industry sources have suggested that the Leds could be a contender to protect the 264 Modular Combat Vehicles, based on Patria's 8 x 8 AMV, being built locally for the South African Army's Hoefyster project.
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|Title Annotation:||Vehicles: self-protection|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2008|
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