Evolution of Active Protection Systems and Their Increasing Demand

Since the inception of the first tank during the First World War, there has been a constant race between tanks and anti-tank weapons. A counter system was always developed to defeat any new rocket or missile which threatened to destroy the armored platform. Composite armors and explosive reactive armor offered some amount of protection to the platform but it was soon realized that armor alone was not enough to stop incoming threats from destroying the vehicle and hence newer means are constantly explored and tested for their capability. The proliferation of anti-tank guided missiles have threatened the armored vehicles’ credibility in the battle field.

The Armor Piercing Fin Stabilized Sabot Discharging (APFSDS) round is capable of defeating some of the best armor as it travels at a significantly higher velocity that can other threat to the main battle tanks.  Some of the widely used ATGM systems use IR and Laser guidance to defeat the tank in the battlefield. The ever increasing urban warfare scenario give the tank commander very less time to detect and react to threats such as RPGs and ATGM. RPG proliferation among terror outfits and rebel militia units in a nation prove to be a serious threat to armored vehicles.

Active protection system is a shield which uses sensors to detect incoming threats and launches countermeasure munitions to detonate the incoming threats and ensure the survivability of the platform. APS can act as a significant deterrent against RPGs and ATGMs. There are two type of APS systems that are currently prevalent on armored platforms. First one is the soft kill APS, which involves electronic countermeasures and smoke dischargers. Electronic countermeasures use jammers to neutralise the incoming threats. Shtora – 1 is an EO jamming system that is used on the Russian T-90. The system of capable of protecting the tank against guided missiles by jamming the guidance system of ATGMs and render them useless. The ADS is considered to be effective against missiles such as the TOW, HOT and AT -5 and also the laser-guided ATGMs.  

The system automatically slews the turret and gun at the direction of the threat, this is enabled by Laser Warning Revivers that located the source of the laser and alerts the APS system to deploy a thermal smoke screen or activation of active protection systems. Smoke screen is considered as an efficient counter measure as it can prevent the ATGM operator to gain a lock on. The warning display provides jammer and the countermeasures information that indicates the current status of the respective systems. The system uses a pair of electro-optical jammers present at the front of the turret to hijack the missile’s command link. It is done by sending the tracker modulated signals which confuses the missile and makes it to deviate from its intended course. The Elbit EO Shield Vehicle Infrared counter measure system protects the vehicles against laser guided threats and is very similar to the Russian soft kill APS system.  Soft kill EO system can also be used in tandem with hard kill APS to improve the efficiency of the APS system and ensure survivability of the plaform.

The Lockheed Martin Modular Active Protection System (MAPS) consists of sensors and counter measures. It has an open architecture system and modular design to enable upgrades to the existing system which enables the neutralisation of future threats. In February 2021 the U.S. Army awarded Lockheed martin with a contract worth $30 million to supply 20 MAPS base kits to U.S. Army combat vehicles.  The system will be fitted on the Abrams, Bradleys and Stryker vehicles. The UK is also working on APS for its armored vehicles. The program is led by Leonardo and is expected to be deployed on Main Battle Tanks and Armored Personnel Carriers.

 Israeli Trophy APS is a combat proven system that is fitted on to almost all the armored vehicles of the Israeli Defense Forces including the Merakava Main battle Tanks. The APS protects against ATGMs, RPGs and HEAT rounds. The Israeli Iron Fist APS uses electronically scanned array radar sensors to detect incoming threats and an explosive projectile is launched towards the incoming round. Iron Fist Light Decoupled (IF-LD) is considered to be an improved light version and has a very low profile. The Russian Afghanit APS uses active electronic scanned array radar and is capable of defeating Armor Piercing Fin Stabilised Discarding Sabot round. Which has a significantly higher velocity that ATGM rounds. 

The increasing need for APS systems will be further driven by the increasing capability of ATGM systems that keeps evolving to defeat armored vehicles in the battlefield. Hence it is evident that APS systems market will have huge potential for growth and will have to constantly evolve in order to defeat the current threats and also be capable of emerging threats that may soon come into existence.

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