WASHINGTON — A U.K.-based industry team led by Italian defense company Leonardo has successfully demonstrated a new system to protect tanks and armored vehicles from incoming missiles, according to a Sept. 15 statement issued by Leonardo at the DSEI defense exhibition in London.
Integrating active protection systems onto vehicle fleets is a challenge shared by countries worldwide, including the United States, which has its own efforts to develop a modular system capable of protecting combat vehicles from rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank guided weapons.
The team — which includes Abstract Solutions, CGI, Frazer-Nash, Lockheed Martin UK, Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land, Roke and Ultra Electronics — demonstrated the new high-tech protection solution — called the Modular Integrated Protection System, or MIPS — at the Ministry of Defence Shoeburyness range in Essex in July. The test was part of Project Icarus, a U.K. Defence Science and Technology Laboratory technology demonstrator program.
The project was launched due to the rise and “rapidly evolving threat” of modern RPGs and anti-tank guided weapons, the statement noted.
During the demonstration, threat representative weapons were shot at close range at the MIPS, which consists of a combination of commercial off-the-shelf and surrogate sensors and countermeasures.
“This trial provided a comprehensive test of the ability of the MIPS sense, control and reaction sequence to respond appropriately to threats within extremely short timeframes,” the statement read.
MIPS has an open-system architecture that allows for modular integration of affordable and best-of-breed sensors and countermeasures, according to Leonardo. Some of these sensors offer “soft” protection that can detect a threat early and attempt to disrupt, decoy or spoof the threat. Other sensors are designed to physically intercept and defeat the incoming missile.
“The MIPS solution is specifically designed to enable the vehicle’s protection system to be rapidly tailored, evolved and certified to protect crewmembers as new threats emerge on the battlefield,” the statement added.
A road map for the solution’s entire life cycle is under development to help the British Defence Ministry as it plans a way to mature the capability and bring it into the force, according to Leonardo.
Now that the initial demonstration is complete, the program has been extended and the scope widened through contract amendments in order to examine MIPS’ potential to deliver counter-drone and counter-intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance solutions, the statement said.
The U.S. Army is also working toward a Modular Active Protection System, or MAPS, capability. It most recently awarded Lockheed Martin, earlier this year, a contract to integrate and formally test an open-architecture processor designed to control the system.
Lockheed will develop the MAPS base kit hardware and software; perform platform integration; and run on-vehicle, live-fire demonstrations over a 36-month period.
The U.S. Army is working with other industry partners to bring in sensors and countermeasures that are compliant with the MAPS architecture.
The Army, Lockheed and other industry partners have been working to prepare sensors and countermeasures controlled by the MAPS base kit for laboratory-based and live-fire demonstrations, including soft-kill systems like Northrop Grumman’s MEOS, BAE Systems’ Raven and Ariel Photonics’ CLOUD, as well as hard-kill systems including Artis Corporation’s Iron Curtain and Elbit System’s Iron Fist.
The Army has spent years developing a vehicle protection system, and has had several attempts — one successful, others not — to field interim active protection systems onto current combat vehicles.
The service has only fielded an active protection system — Rafael’s Trophy — on its M1 Abrams tank, which has been under evaluation with a unit in Europe. Leonardo DRS integrated Trophy onto the Abrams tank as part of that program.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.