By Grant Turnbill, ShepardMedia.com
September 29, 2017 - (LONDON) -- The US Army is preparing for initial fielding of the Trophy active protection system (APS) on the M1A2 Abrams tank, with contracts now being placed with industry.
Shephard understands that while a decision is still pending on purchasing Trophy, the US Army office responsible for the Abrams tank has contracted work that will allow an Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT) to be fitted with the missile-defeating technology.
Senior leaders are expected to make a decision on fielding Trophy within days.
A contract notice released on the 28 September revealed that Abrams manufacturer General Dynamics Land Systems had been awarded a $9.9 million contract from the US Army to support the equipping of an ABCT with the system.
The work will be performed at GDLS’s site in Michigan and is expected to be complete by March 2019.
While a GDLS spokesperson did not provide additional details, the army told Shephard that this allows the service to pursue multiple options upon approval.
'We have prepositioned contracts to enable the army to pursue multiple options depending upon pending decisions by senior army leadership,' Ashley Givens, PEO Ground Combat Systems public affairs director, said in a statement.
Last month it was reported that the Army Requirements Oversight Council (AROC) had delayed a decision to purchase Trophy, but sources have told Shephard that senior leaders will now take that decision within a few days following additional testing.
The prepositioned contracts are a way for the US Army to 'hit the ground running' once approvals are given to purchase Trophy, said the source.
Integration of Trophy will give the Abrams the capability to detect, track and intercept an incoming anti-tank projectile using a hard-kill countermeasure system.
It is not known which ABCT, if any, has been allocated to receive the APS-equipped Abrams, or whether the upgraded M1 Abrams will be prioritised for a particular theatre of operations.
Trophy has already been successfully used on operations by the Israel Defense Forces for its fleet of Merkava Mk4 MBTs and Namer APCs. During Operation Protective Edge, Trophy was credited with saving countless Israeli soldiers as the system intercepted dozens of rockets fired by militants.
The US Army has been conducting studies into APS and its possible integration onto several platforms including the M1A2 Abrams, M2 Bradley and Stryker.
That resulted in a series of live-fire trials this summer – known as ‘characterisations’ – that informed the army on how it would move forward with the technology.
The developer of Trophy - Rafael Advanced Defense Systems - have been working with US-based Leonardo DRS since 2012 to offer the system to the US military.
A spokesperson for Leonardo DRS told Shephard it was 'gratified to be part of the progress that’s been made so far to introduce this game-changing technology to our combat forces'.
'We look forward to helping our US customers in their stated goal of fielding this capability as rapidly as possible,' the spokesperson added.
Speaking to Shephard in September, the director of survivability and lethality for DRS Land Systems Mike O’Leary said that Trophy had now been successfully been installed and characterised for use on the M1 Abrams.
‘That characterisation process has completed and where we are at, we are highly pleased though not at all surprised at our performance, it was exceptional. And that was despite a very challenging set of environments and test conditions that our government put us through.
‘From our standpoint, we think a lot of the naysayers out there have become believers,’ he said.
Earlier this summer, the programme executive officer of ground combat systems Maj Gen David Bassett said the army was close to making a decision on a ‘brigade worth of capability’ for APS.
The adoption of APS is seen as an important way to maintain 'overmatch' against asymmetric and near-peer adversaries, particularly as Russia and China begin to field their own hard-kill APS technologies.
US Army leadership are expected to lay out its APS strategy in more detail at the upcoming AUSA exhibition in Washington DC that begins on 9 October.