Developments in Active Protection System (APS) technologies
Jane's experts examine the use of active protection systems, what they are, current areas of development globally, diverging research and future development trajectories in this extract from the Jane's Online Intelligence Briefing series. Content from this extract has been taken from a range of Jane's solutions, particularly Jane's Defence Equipment and Technology Intelligence Centre.
Active protection systems automatically provide an interruptive or destructive effect on an incoming projectile that would otherwise be passively countered by the vehicle's armour. APS add layers to the survivability 'onion' by extending the distance between the vehicle's armour and the destruction or degradation of the incoming projectile's capability. By destroying or degrading the threat projectile at a distance from the vehicle, the vehicle is less likely to be hit, if hit less likely to be penetrated and if penetrated less likely to be immobilised or destroyed.
APS can provide protection against a range of threat projectiles, including:
- Unguided shaped charge projectiles, such as Rocket Propelled Grenades
- Anti-tank guided weapons (ATGW)
- Artillery rounds and air-dropped munitions
- Some tank-fired kinetic energy rounds
Active Protection System
An active protection system provides situational awareness and detection of threat projectiles out to its furthest capable range. When such a threat is fired towards the vehicle, this is detected and tracked by the APS, which can deploy a soft-kill obscurant such as multispectral smoke, to interfere with the projectile's targeting and guidance mechanisms. Alternatively, the soft-kill APS may use laser dazzlers or other electro-optical interference systems.
If only a hard-kill APS is fitted, or if the projectile is not neutralised by a hybrid APS' soft-kill system, the threat projectile is targeted by either a deployed or distributed hard-kill countermeasure. The former is launched from the vehicle and then uses explosive force and/or fragmentation to destroy the projectile, while the later uses an explosive/fragmentation effect fired directly from the vehicle itself.
Germany has a history of developing a number of defensive aids systems, including obscurants, acoustic hostile fire location sensors, laser warning systems, and other components that can subsequently be integrated with soft-kill APSs. The country has developed a number of soft- and hard-kill APSs and is the first Western country to fit a soft-kill APS as standard on its new-build fleet of Puma infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs). This is the Multifunction Self-protection System (MUSS), manufactured by Hensoldt. This soft-kill system was selected to equip the Puma over hard-kill systems.
Russia was the first nation to develop and field an APS - the Drozd system that was employed on a number of T-55AD MBTs from 1983, as well as on some T-80U-M1 MBTs. Drozd is a hard-kill system that relied on unguided 105 mm fragmentation interceptors. Subsequently the Drozd-2 was developed, with this still being marketed but never having entered production for the Russian Army.
A successor, the Arena APS, and its related export version known as Arena-E, was developed in the early 1990s. Using different hard-kill EFP plates, the Arena system is not believed to have entered service with Russian forces, but is understood to have seen some degree of technology transfer or integration work onto the South Korean K2 MBT.
Future research and development trajectories
There are a plethora of sensors that have already been developed for use on aircraft that could be transferred to the land domain for use by APSs. These include missile approach and laser warning receivers that could be adapted for use as the sensory component of an APS. As such, if these components can be transferred rather than developed outright, this is likely to generate cost, schedule, and technical benefits.
While open systems architecture offers a number of advantages for the end-user, including the avoidance of technical and commercial 'lock-in' to a single or small number of manufacturers and the ability to integrate a variety of different components, the border between intellectual property rights and an open architecture is unclear.
There are commercial implications required to implement an open systems architecture (OSA) approach to fielding an APS. Determining which entity becomes the design authority for the system, for example, as well as the logistical, engineering, and through-life support requirements for supporting a variety of system components.
Active protection systems will remain at the forefront of military ground vehicles technological development in coming years. The potential for these systems is yet to be fully realised, with the high complexity of these systems posing substantial technical challenges.
This is an extract from the Jane's Online Intelligence Briefing series. Content from this extract has been taken from a range of Jane's solutions, particularly Jane's Defence Equipment and Technology Intelligence Centre. Find out more.
Jane's Editorial Staff
Posted 20 October 2017
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