WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army has picked two active protection systems to evaluate next fall for possible applications on a variety of ground combat vehicles.

A Rheinmetall and Unified Business Technologies team received an $11 million contract from the Army to provide its StrikeShield APS system for the evaluation. And a DRS and Rafael team received a similar contract to participate, the Army confirmed to Defense News.

After evaluating two active protections systems — StrikeShield and Rafael’s Trophy VPS — in a 2018 demonstration, and determining neither were the right fit for an interim APS capability for the Stryker combat vehicle, it appears the door is opening back up for that capability.

It is likely the solution the Army is evaluating from DRS and Rafael is Trophy VPS, Rafael’s lighter version of its Trophy APS system that is being fielded on Abrams tanks.

The Army found interim APS solutions for both its Abrams tanks and Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, but the service has struggled to find one for the Strykers. The service moved quickly over the past several years to field combat vehicle protection against rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank-guided missiles while it develops a future system.

The service’s new evaluation effort — conducted through the its new Vehicle Protective Systems (VPS) program office — will begin in October 2020 at Redstone Test Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

“It provides a pathway to potential utilization of the system on vehicles in the current Army vehicle fleet as well as vehicles fielded in the future,” according to a Rheinmetall statement issued earlier this month.

The Army will evaluate StrikeShield “as part of a larger effort to characterize APS performance against a wide variety of anti-armor threats,” Rheinmetall’s statement read. “This significant contract award represents the first funded APS testing the Army will undertake of the StrikeShield system.”

Rheinmetall and UBT funded the previous evaluation of the system for Stryker at the invitation of the Army.

Based in Unterluess, Germany, Rheinmetall has been pushing to get its active defense system in front of the Army and under consideration for integration into U.S. combat vehicles for several years. The company seemed poised to be selected as the interim solution for the Stryker prior to the Army’s demonstration last fall.

The Army also considered Herndon, Virginia-based Artis Corporation’s Iron Curtain APS for Stryker through a more extensive evaluation, but decided in August 2018 not to move forward in fielding it to Stryker units.

The new round of evaluations considers limited characterizations focused on platform agnostic testing to garner additional data on hard-kill APS, the Army told Defense News in a written statement.

The APS will be installed on a vehicle agnostic test riq, the service said, to inform APS considerations for “multiple ground combat platforms.”

“The results of this activity will be leveraged to inform the Army’s approach to future hard kill APS acquisitions,” the service added.

While the Army has looked and, in some cases, acquired APS for the Stryker, Bradley and Abrams, it is also considering what protection systems are needed for its armored multipurpose vehicle, mobile protected firepower capability and Bradley’s future replacement, the optionally manned fighting vehicle (OMFV).

The evaluations are scheduled to start at the beginning of fiscal 2021 and will last roughly six months.

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.

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