Leonardo has been selected by the UK Government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) to lead a team of UK companies in work that will help protect British Army vehicles against current and future weapons. Under a Technology Demonstrator Programme (TDP) called ‘Icarus’, the team will develop and demonstrate a way to affordably integrate ‘best of breed’ technologies in a category known as ‘Active Protection Systems’ (APS), preparing them for deployment across the Army’s fleet of land vehicles. Part of the TDP will see the Leonardo team demonstrate and evaluate an operational prototype against ‘live fire’ weapon engagements. Team members working with Leonardo to deliver the Icarus TDP are BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin UK, Ultra Electronics, Frazer-Nash, Brighton University, Abstract Solutions, Roke Manor Research and SCISYS.
The project is responding to an operational environment where armour by itself will not be sufficient to defend against the capabilities of future weapon systems, in particular threats such as Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) and Anti-Tank Guided Weapons (ATGW). In order to counter this growing threat, a number of Active Protection Systems (APS) technologies have been developed by industry and are available as off-the-shelf solutions to supplement the physical protection that is offered by an armoured vehicle. These APS technologies generally fall into either of two categories: ‘soft’ APS solutions that are focused on early threat detection and which attempt to disrupt, decoy or spoof the incoming threat and ‘hard’ APS systems that seek to defeat the incoming weapon system by physically intercepting it, known in military terminology as a ‘kinetic effect’.
Whilst these APS technologies are currently available and will continue to be developed by industry, it is clear that no single solution is suited to every threat scenario or indeed all threats. The key challenge is to be able to rapidly and affordably tailor a vehicle’s combination of APS technologies to optimise survivability prior to, or during, deployment.
Against this backdrop, the primary objective of the Icarus TDP is to develop and demonstrate a UK sovereign Modular, Integrated Protection System (MIPS) Electronic Architecture (EA) that enables “best of breed” APS sensors and countermeasures to be selected, integrated and deployed as necessary to defeat a wide range of current and future battlefield weapon threats. Not only must the architecture be easy to use, it must also be affordable and dependable and ultimately form the basis of a new MIPS defence standard, similar in principle to that which has been developed for the UK Generic Vehicle Architecture (GVA) standard.
In order to deliver maximum value for money from the TDP, Leonardo has assembled a team that brings together a range of UK experts in their respective fields as well as representation from UK academia that can draw upon previous UK investment in related technical areas. Under the Icarus TDP, in conjunction with Dstl, the Leonardo team will establish and cultivate an industry APS Community of Interest (CoI). A key objective of this CoI initiative will encourage engagement across industry to help ensure the very best APS technologies available – now and in the future – are considered in the MIPS EA.
Under the related Dstl Common Defensive Aids System (CDAS) programme, Leonardo has and continues to undertake similar APS integration activities for the UK helicopter fleet. Both the CDAS and Icarus programmes build on decades of experience in the provision of integrated Defensive Aid Suite (DAS) solutions and protection systems to both the UK and allied armed forces. Current examples of DAS provided by Leonardo include the systems which protect the UK’s AW159 Wildcat, Apache, Puma, Chinook and Merlin helicopters, all of which bring together a collection of sensors and protective equipment into a comprehensive defensive suite. The company also leads the EuroDASS consortium, which provides the Praetorian defensive aids sub system (DASS) for the Eurofighter Typhoon.