Photo Credit - US Army
By Kris Osborn - Managing Editor - Warrior Maven
The Army is massively revving up deployment of RPG-killing Active Protection Systems weapons on Abrams battle tanks to Europe as part of a sweeping effort to better arm its Armored Brigade Combat Teams and counter Russian threats in the region.
Active Protection Systems (APS) use sensors and radar, computer processing, fire control technology and interceptors to find, target and knock down or intercept incoming enemy fire such as RPGs and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, or ATGMs.
The APS system now on Abrams tanks, called Trophy, is engineered to track and destroy approaching enemy fire through 360-degree radar and computer-enabled fire control technology designed to fire out an interceptor projectile to hit and explode attacking RPGs.
“Not only will we be fielding one set of Trophy on Abrams tanks to Europe, but also three other brigades,” Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, Director, Program Analysis and Evaluation, G-8, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
The weapons plus-up for Europe-bound APS is woven into the 2019 budget request, he added.
The interceptor consists of a series of small, shaped charges attached to a gimbal on top of the vehicle. The small explosives are sent to a precise point in space to intercept and destroy the approaching round, Army developers explain.
Trophy is the kind of armored vehicle ground-war weapon of particular value in the event of a major land combat engagement against a fortified, well-armed adversary such as Russia.
Systems of this kind have been in development for many years, however the rapid technological progress of enemy tank rounds, missiles and RPGs is leading the Army to more rapidly deploy APS for its fleet of Abrams tanks deploying to Europe.
Trophy involves a collaborative industry team involving General Dynamics, DRS Technologies and Israeli-based Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
Being engineered as among the most survivable and heavily armored vehicles in existence, the Abrams tank is built to withstand a high degree of enemy fire, such some enemy tank rounds, RPGs, rockets and missiles. Abrams tanks can also carry reactive armor, material used to explode incoming enemy fire in a manner that protects the chassis and crew of the vehicle itself.
However, depending upon the range, speed and impact location of enemy fire, there are some weapons which still pose a substantial threat to Abrams tanks. Therefore, having an APS system which could knock out enemy rounds before they hit the tank, without question, adds an additional layer of protection for the tank and crew. A particular threat area for Abrams tanks is the need the possibility of having enemy rounds hit its ammunition compartment, thereby causing a damaging secondary explosion.
The Army's expedited APS effort has been managed by a coordinated team of Tank Automotive Research, Development & Engineering Center engineers, acquisition professionals, and industry.
An often-discussed challenge with APS technology is to develop the proper protocol or tactics, techniques and procedures such that soldiers walking in proximity to a vehicle are not vulnerable to shrapnel, debris or fragments from the explosion between an interceptor and approaching enemy fire.
APS on Abrams tanks, quite naturally, is the kind of protective technology which could help US Army tanks in tank-on-tank mechanized warfare against near-peer adversary tanks, such as a high-tech Russian T-14 Armata tank.
The 48-ton modern T-14 tank is widely reported to be able to reach speeds of 90-kilometers per hour; it is built with an unmanned turret, without a “fume extractor” and is designed for a 3-man crew surrounded by an armored capsule. -- To Read Warrior Maven's Abrams Tank vs. Russian T-14 Armata Analysis CLICK HERE --
While much has been made of the T-14 Armata’s cutting edge technology, including its active protection, 12-round per minute firing range and 125mm smoothbore cannon in numerous public reports and assessments, it is not at all clear that the T-14 in any way fully outmatches current and future variants of the Abrams tank.
Army Abrams modernization efforts are without question being designed to meet and exceed any dangers posed by rival nation tanks, including the T-14. Concerns about the threat posed by the T-14 Armata are, without question, informing US tank and weapons developers.
Trophy'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, Leonardo DRS officials have told Warrior Maven.
Trophy has been deployed in combat in Gaza on Israeli Defense Forces’ Merkava tanks.
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.
The Israelis developed Trophy upon realizing that tanks could not simply be given more armor without greatly minimizing their maneuverability and deployability, Leonardo DRS officials said.