WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army plans to take another year to pick an Active Protection System for its Stryker combat vehicle, according to the military deputy to the Army acquisition chief.
The service is already fielding the Rafael-made Trophy APS on its Abrams tank and has picked IMI’s Iron Fist for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle — both as interim systems until the Army can develop an advanced future system — but it had to go back to square one when its attempt to outfit Stryker with Herndon, Virginia-based Artis LLC’s Iron Curtain system failed.
The Army put out a request for possible systems to be qualified as an interim solution on the Stryker. Officials ultimately chose a Rafael and DRS team and a Rheinmetall and UBT team to participate in a live-fire rodeo last November to see if either system might work.
But while it was believed a decision would come soon after, Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski testified at an April 2 Senate Armed Services Airland Subcommittee hearing that it would take another year to make a decision.
“We have two companies that are in the process of competing for [APS on Stryker]. One is a venture between … Rafael and DRS and the other is Rheinmetall and UBT, so we are in the process of going through that,” Ostrowski said. “It’s going to take about a year, quite frankly, in order to put those systems on the vehicles, characterize them and make a determination as to whether or not to move forward with either one of the two vendors.”
Ostrowski added the service had asked each team to provide blueprints and to build their non-developmental APS systems to fit on Stryker. “They are in the process of doing that build,” he said.
“And once the build is put on the vehicle, it’s then a matter of testing in order to ensure that it works,” Ostrowski said, which is not unlike the process the Army went through to characterize and qualify APS systems on both Abrams and Bradley.
Israeli company Rafael and DRS submitted its Trophy VPS — a lighter version of Trophy — for the rodeo. Germany-based Rheinmetall partnered with Unified Business Technologies, based in Michigan, and submitted its Active Defense System — now renamed StrikeShield.
During the rodeo, participants did not perform a full installation of their systems on the vehicle. Instead, they set up test rigs in front of Strykers or hung their system off a Stryker in the evaluation.
Following the rodeo, the idea was to select one, possibly two systems, to begin some sort of installation characterization on a platform deemed most appropriate for the APS system, Col. Glenn Dean, the Army’s Stryker program manager who is also in charge of the interim APS effort, told Defense News in October 2018.
Meanwhile, Ostrowski said the Army bought 88 Iron Fist systems for Bradley in 2019 and planned to buy another 36 in the FY20 budget. The service is on a path to field four brigades of Abrams with Trophy by FY21.
The Army is also developing its own Modular Active Protection System, which is seen more like a digital integrated backbone that will be designed with an open-system architecture so that vendors can bring radars, optical sensors and hard- or soft-kill effectors and plug them in, according to Ostrowski.
The important thing is “to get a capability out there first. . . . Now it’s just a matter of moving beyond that,” he said.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.