LWI - Land Warfare

DSEI 2017: Shields up for UK active protection

13th September 2017 - 01:09 GMT | by Grant Turnbull in London

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The UK Ministry of Defence has officially announced that it is funding a new initiative that could see vehicle-based active protection systems (APS) fielded for the British Army.

Secretary of state for defence Michael Fallon announced at DSEI 2017 that the MoD had awarded Leonardo a £10 million contract to explore technologies that will ‘provide a shield against RPGs and anti-tank missiles’.

Several armies around the world are now assessing vehicle-based APS as the threat from advanced anti-tank guided missiles grows and other near-peer states, such as Russia and China, continue to field such systems.

Known as ‘Icarus’, the MoD project is being funded by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and, in addition to Leonardo, will involve an industry team including BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin UK, Ultra Electronics, Frazer-Nash, Brighton University, Abstract Solutions, Roke Manor Research and SCISYS.

Part of Icarus will be to demonstrate and evaluate an operational prototype against ‘live fire’ weapon engagements. A Leonardo source indicated that this would occur by the end of the decade, although the type of vehicle has not been decided on.

‘The whole point of this is that it is modular and it is generic for a reason,’ he said. ‘We want to make sure that the mission system components, subject to deep vehicle integration, are scalable and modular.’

While the new APS technology demonstrator programme (TDP) was announced at DSEI, Shephard understands that Leonardo was contracted several months ago.

According to Leonardo, the primary objective for Icarus is to develop and demonstrate a ‘UK sovereign’ Modular, Integrated Protection System (MIPS) electronic architecture (EA) that enables APS sensors and countermeasures to be integrated and deployed according to operational needs.

The MIPS standard could eventually be similar to the Generic Vehicle Architecture standard that has been developed by the UK MoD and industry.

APS technologies can include so-called ‘soft-kill’ technologies that jam or decoy the guidance of an incoming projectile or ‘hard-kill’ solutions that intercept a missile with a projectile fired from the vehicle itself.

A Leonardo source told Shephard that the company had a rich heritage in airborne protection systems, including decoys, as well as vehicle architecture integrations, which made vehicle APS a natural progression for them.

‘It’s important that we [integrate APS technologies] in a systematic way,’ he explained. ‘Part of that is going to be led by our existing systems approach and to deliver some kind of architecture standard. All that we do is architecturally-based.’

Icarus is being run in parallel to another DSTL APS initiative known as Medusa – led by Qinetiq – which will see the testing of the MUSS soft-kill APS technology from Hensoldt.

The architecture approach on DSTL’s Icarus follows a similar vein to US Army tactical thinking on APS. It has funded an initiative known as the Modular APS – or MAPS – programme, which is being led by the US Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineer Center (TARDEC), together with the Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM).

It is hoped that MAPS will eventually create a baseline architecture that all suppliers can adhere to, easing integration of APS technologies and allowing for more affordable upgrade options in the future.

The US Army announced in August that the initial MAPS Framework (MAF) 1.0 had been released. The framework looks at standardising the development and upgradability of APS, as well as subsystem technologies used by ground vehicles. 

Meanwhile, the US Army is also expediting the installation of APS, including the Israeli-made Trophy system, onto its current fleet of vehicles with testing taking place earlier this year.

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