Defense Update News:

'Quick Kill' Active protection System to Protect Current, Future Combat Vehicles

The U.S. Army is developing a family of Active Protection Systems (APS) as part of its Future Combat Systems (FCS) ground-force modernization program. FCS is designed to bring Soldiers into the 21st century by equipping them with state-of-the-art vehicles, communication capabilities, sensors and protective systems. In the summer of 2008 the system has passed a major milestone by completing successful stationary and moving target intercept tests. These tests represent a significant step in design verification testing for the system, which includes defeating multiple incoming projectiles simultaneously and while on the move -- a unique capability of the APS. (more...)

The APS is actually part of a more comprehensive "hit-avoidance system" that the Army is building into a suite of eight new FCS Manned Ground Vehicles types. This more comprehensive hit-avoidance system will give the Soldiers in the MGVs "full-scale 360-degree hemispherical protection," said FCS Program Manager Maj. Gen. Charles A. Cartwright.

The FCS Active Protection System "is the only available vertical launch system that I'm aware of," said Maj. Lewis Phillips, assistant product manager. Other Active Protection Systems out on the market employ horizontal launch systems. A vertical launch system, Phillips said, allows for redundant protection from all sides of the vehicle. That way, if countermeasures on one side of the vehicle fail or are disabled, countermeasures from another angle, or side of the vehicle, can still defeat the incoming round.

The Quick Kill system was displayed for the first time at AUSA 2008. Elements shown are the interceptor (cylinder at right), the launcher-container module which stores the projectile and the APS assembly that fits onto the protected vehicle and interfaces between the projectile and APS control systems on board. Photo: Defense Update

The system is designed to use two types of interceptors, one for intercepting close-in threats such as RPGs at close range, and a larger interceptor against faster anti-tank missiles and tank rounds, intercepted at a longer distance from the protected platform. Both are based on a common launch and propulsion system, utilizing a 'dumb', cylinder-shaped interceptor vertically launched from a side mounted container by a gas generator. The APS projectiles are delivered in 'inserts' that contain the tethered projectile. As the insert is locked in place it automatically connects to the system and is ready to operate.

SOme of the modules installed on the vehicle in support of the APS include the flat panel radar (left) and main processor (right). Photo: Defense UpdateIncoming threats are detected by on-board radar and EO sensors. As threats are identified as immediate, an interceptor is vertically ejected by the gas generator built-in the launcher container. While tethered to the launcher, the projectile employs a thruster located at the base of the cylinder, to acquire horizontal positioning while lateral maneuver is performed by other thruster activation, positioning the projectile at the direction of the incoming threat.

Thruster activation commands are relayed to the interceptor via the tether cable still connected at this stage. As the interceptor is aligned relevant to the incoming threat, the rocket is ignited, accelerating the projectile to explode at a predestinated location to achieve maximum effect.

The Army's Active Protection System is still in development,but has proven itself in live-fire testing (see video), said Maj. Phillips. Quick Kill passed an important milestone recently as the interceptor projectiles were- tested throughout their critical vertical ejection phase. Hit-avoidance prototypes, moreover, are scheduled for delivery in 2011.

Elements of the FCS hit-avoidance system will be incorporated into current Army vehicles on a limited basis, Cartwright said. He said it can only be done on a limited scale because current Army vehicles were not designed with a hit-avoidance system in mind.

The FCS Active Protection System is being developed by Raytheon's Network Centric Systems (NCS). Its Combat Protection Systems unit leads the development effort in partnership with Raytheon Missile Systems, developing the Army's hit-avoidance capability for key components of the FCS.