Army to Begin Equipping Heavy Units with Active Protection by 2020

Iron Fist active protection system (Ereshkigal1 via Wikimedia Commons)
Iron Fist active protection system (Ereshkigal1 via Wikimedia Commons)

The U.S. Army's chief of staff told Congress this week that the service plans to begin equipping four heavy brigades with anti-missile defense systems "within 24 months."

More than a year ago, the Army embarked on an accelerated effort to test and adapt Israeli-made active protection systems to its M1 tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and other key platforms to counter the growing numbers of sophisticated anti-armor missile threats by countries such as Russia.

"These systems were built for country-specific vehicles," Gen. Mark Milley told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee Tuesday.

"We are taking these systems, and we are adapting them right now as we speak to our vehicles," he said. "There is some testing and prototyping and safety testing that has to be done with these before they are ready for operational use. We are hoping to do that here in the next 24 months.

The Army has been testing Israeli-made systems such as Trophy for the M1 tank and Iron Fist for the Bradley. Army testers have also been working with the U.S.-made Iron Curtain APS system.

"The companies in the United States, they are not ready yet for full-rate production," Milley said.

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, said he is glad the Army has made APS a priority, but "the question is when will tank units in the National Guard ... see those same improvements?"

Milley said the Army has chosen to start with "early-deploying, first-responder sort of units."

"We picked four heavy brigades to purchase those systems for," he said. "We have not worked out the schedule, but ... once the U.S. companies come online, the intent is to outfit the entire heavy force -- so all of the ground vehicles, the Bradleys, the tanks, any future combat vehicles -- with active protection systems."

Milley added that the Army will also equip some aircraft with APS but said, "We have not worked out the aircraft piece.

"We don't yet have a schedule for the Guard, or the rest of the regular Army," he said, "but our intent is to outfit the total force ... with active protection systems in the years ahead."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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