The Army will combine a suite of missiles and an electronic jammer on a Bradley this summer as it searches for new ways to keep its vehicle fleet alive in an era of near-peer combat.
In mid-February the Army announced that the BAE Systems RAVEN countermeasure beat out competitors in a “soft kill” rodeo that consisted of a six-week evaluation where the Army fired anti-tank missiles at the systems to see which system provided the best protection.
But it wasn’t the attention-grabbing missiles being evaluated, part of the well known portion of the Active Protection Systems. It was another layer of protection — using electronic jammers to confuse missile systems, making them stray off course or cease functioning.
Last year, the Army chose Trophy APS for its Abrams tanks, as did the Marine Corps. The Army expects to equip four armored brigade combat teams by late 2020.
It picked the Iron Fist APS for the Bradley and is still searching for an effective system to mount on the Stryker, according to a Pentagon report.
But those are the traditional, missile-on-missile methods. The problem is that vehicles can hold only so many of those shots to counter incoming rounds. The soft kill option helps by providing a deeper magazine, allowing crews to take out between half and three-quarters of most threats before having to reach into their hard-kill ammo stores.
The recent “soft-kill rodeo” gave researchers and officials a way to evaluate the other method in the real world.
“The rodeo proved the high potential of soft kill countermeasures to protect our soldiers and platforms from broadly proliferated and lethal threats,” said Jason Morse, Electronic Defeat team leader for the Army research center.
The event also showed a few firsts for the Modular Active Protection Systems program: “the first field test of the entire MAPS Base Kit; the first full, end-to-end cue, slew and defeat for multiple MAPS APS instantiations; and the first time subsystems from three different vendors were integrated into a single system.”
The RAVEN Multifunction Countermeasure beat out Northrop Grumman’s Multifunction Electro-Optical System (MEOS) and the Color Light Operational Unit for Deflection (CLOUD) developed by Ariel Photonics Group in Israel and modified for use in the United States by Lockheed Martin, according to the Army release.
But the RAVEN system isn’t necessarily brand new to the Army. It’s actually a system used on aircraft that’s being adapted to the more cluttered, sometimes confusing, ground fight.
BAE Executive Ryan Edwards told Breaking Defense that there is work to be done but the system could be ready in about two years.
“We have a pretty well known and deep history of aircraft platform protection and the RAVEN countermeasure is our attempt to adapt some of that … at a price point … that make it more relevant for ground combat vehicles,” Edwards told Breaking Defense. “We’re still working closely with the customer to determine what is the best way to ruggedize that capability and make it reliable enough for a combat vehicle.”
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.