Army researchers kick off modular active protection system mission

TARDEC Engineer Jason Morse addresses technology leaders from across the U.S. Army's AMC, RDECOM, the Maneuver Center of Excellence and ground vehicle PEOs during the MAPS Kickoff Meeting Dec. 3-4, 2013 (U.S. Army photo)

TARDEC Engineer Jason Morse addresses technology leaders from across the U.S. Army’s AMC, RDECOM, the Maneuver Center of Excellence and ground vehicle PEOs during the MAPS Kickoff Meeting Dec. 3-4, 2013 (U.S. Army photo)

TARDEC Public Affairs

The U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center officially kicked off a joint mission Dec. 3-4, 2013, to develop a Modular Active Protection System, known as MAPS, by welcoming technology leaders from across the Army.

Officials from U.S. Army Materiel Command, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga., and ground vehicle program executive offices formed a joint team to deliver a common framework to enable affordable, reduced-weight, protective systems for ground vehicles.

RDECOM presented plans at the meeting to develop a modular system to protect Soldiers while fitting within program manager constraints regarding cost and platform size, weight, power and cooling requirements.

The team’s approach focuses on:

  • Modularity to allow “best of breed” component flexibility
  • Modular APS Controller designed to facilitate transition, meet safety requirements, and enable commonality and future capability growth
  • Increased threat protection at lower vehicle weight than armor solutions alone could provide

A budget administrator from the Office of the  Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology attended the meeting and said the program has earned the senior-level commitment it needs to move forward.

“Everyone believes we can’t armor ourselves into long-term protective solutions,” said Matt Donohue, ASA(ALT) director of Ground Systems Portfolio. “MAPS is not a matter of ‘if,’ but when and how well you do it.”

Experts recognize that armor enhancements, while effective against current threats, add too much weight and cost, while decreasing maneuverability, to reliably shield vehicle crews from attacks.

Also, advances in computer capability and component quality have made MAPS achievable.

The new APS prototypes will feature semi-autonomous or autonomous systems that can be integrated onto vehicles to give Soldiers the capability to detect, classify, receive warning cues and use countermeasures to address threats or imminent threats in the field. For instance, if a combatant fires a rocket-propelled grenade at a vehicle equipped with MAPS, the system can detect the threat in the air and defeat it faster than Soldiers could react. The system also enhances Soldiers’ ability to return fire by indicating where the threat came from, allowing them to maintain an offensive position.

“Armor combined with APS provides the most efficient system-level protection for combat and tactical vehicles’ space, weight and performance,” said Jason Morse, TARDEC Ground System survivability engineer and MAPS program manager.

The effort leverages resources from Army Research Laboratory, Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center and Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity.

TARDEC Technical Director Dr. Paul Rogers explained that a modular system can overcome challenges associated with point-specific solutions, which lack commonality and sustainability.

“What prevented previous systems from going forward were integration issues and constraints,” Rogers said. “Adaptability is key. Flexibility is key. We have an opportunity to develop things differently. We need a modular framework and controller with flexible architecture that allows us to tailor solutions to satisfy future needs in the field. Commanders will have options based on the threat and environment they’re facing.”

Morse said the experts who gathered at the summit need to remain engaged and synchronized.

“Everybody has expertise to bring to the table,” he said. “We have to work as a team. If we don’t, this doesn’t work.”

TARDEC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America’s Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army’s premier provider of materiel readiness — technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment — to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.