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U.S. Army Explores Combined Active Protection System and Hostile Fire Detection

In a recently released request for information (RFI), the U.S. Army has expressed interest in identifying potential sources for development of a combined Active Protection System (APS) and Hostile Fire Detection (HFD) system capability that could potentially be applied to future tactical and combat ground vehicles. The Oct. 2 request was made on behalf of the Army’s Program Management Office Ground Combat Vehicle, Product Manager Requirements, Management and Analysis.

“The government is seeking information about a combined APS and HFD capability that includes soft-kill (electronic countermeasures) and hard-kill defeat mechanisms.”

According to the RFI, “The government is seeking information about a combined APS and HFD capability that includes soft-kill (electronic countermeasures) and hard-kill defeat mechanisms, the ability to detect enemy optics prior to the hostile fire event (referred to as pre-shot), and the ability to identify the point of origin (POO) of the hostile fire event.”

Active Protection System (APS)

The canceled Future Combat Systems (FCS) program experimented with an Active Protection System (APS). U.S. Army photo

“The APS and HFD capabilities must be able to operate while the platform is on-the-move (OTM) and perform their respective functions in an operationally useful timeframe,” it adds.

The Army has experimented with APS over the past several years.

The Army has experimented with APS over the past several years. The canceled Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, for example, had planned to include active protection based on the Raytheon Quick Kill system. More recently, both of the contractors with candidates in the current Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) development have also been exploring active protection systems to meet the Army’s protection requirements.

Artis Iron Curtain APS

The Artis LLC “Iron Curtain” Active Protection System (APS) successfully completed a government test in April, 2013. Artis LLC image

BAE Systems, for example, evaluated several available systems before selecting the “Iron Curtain” APS from Artis LLC for a series of demonstrations.

Artis announced that the APS had “successfully defeated all threats during recent U.S. government testing.”

In late April 2013, Artis announced that the APS had “successfully defeated all threats during recent U.S. government testing.”

Artis operational descriptions note that the system uses a C-band radar to initially detect and track an incoming round, alerting the system and switching it from armed-ready to an armed state. At close range, a distributed optical sensor classifies the threat to select aimpoint and determine which countermeasure to fire. The countermeasure then fires straight down, killing the threat with minimal collateral damage to personnel in close proximity.

The countermeasure then acts straight down, killing the threat with minimal collateral damage to personnel in close proximity.

Just one month later, General Dynamics Land Systems highlighted its lead in “an effort to develop the first North American combat vehicle with a fully integrated Active Protection System (APS).” Noting that the company had recently concluded a successful critical design review of its APS project, the announcement added, “The next major step is to validate a fully integrated APS on a Light Armored Vehicle III (LAVIII) demonstrator, scheduled for later this year.”

Trophy APS

The Trophy Active Protection System (APS) has seen combat with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). This IDF Merkava MK IV tank mounts the Trophy APS. Israel Defense Forces photo

In outlining its continuing interest in integrating APS and HFD capabilities, the recently released U.S. Army RFI noted, “The HFD capability must be, at a minimum, able to identify the azimuth and elevation to the location of the hostile fire event. Ideally, the system would provide the range and geo-location (e.g. latitude and longitude or 10 digit grid coordinate) of the hostile-fire event.”

“Ideally, the system would provide the range and geo-location (e.g. latitude and longitude or 10 digit grid coordinate) of the hostile-fire event.”

Government interest is currently focused on integrated, system-level approaches that could be ready for a minimum Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 5/6 demonstration in the fiscal year 2015 timeframe.

Rafael Trophy APS

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems is exploring fitting the Trophy Active Protection System (APS) on tactical ground vehicles, something the U.S. Army might desire for future tactical vehicles. Rafael Advanced Defense Systems photo

Interested sources are invited to provide white papers describing their capabilities and system concepts, including:

  • A detailed discussion of potential sensor, countermeasure, and software solutions
  •  Potential integrated system approaches
  •  Estimation of system performance against threats (including minimum threat launch range)
  •  Amount of rolled homogeneous armor (RHA) [in mm] required to prevent perforation of residual fragments
  •  Accuracy to which the HFD capability can locate a hostile fire event
  •  Maximum range the HFD capability can detect a hostile fire event

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...