US: 261 M1 Abrams tanks to receive Rafael’s Trophy Active Protection System

Increasing threats need increasing responses, both financially and technologically. The increased Pentagon’s 2019 budget will benefit to the upgrading of 261 M1A2 Abrams SEP V2 main battle tanks (enough for three brigades), namely with an Israeli-made Trophy Active Protection Systems (APS) to neutralize anti-tank missiles.

261 US M1 Abrams main battle tanks to receive Rafael Trophy Active Protection System 925 001
U.S. M1A2 Abrams main battle tank fitted with the Israeli-made APS (Active Protection System) Trophy (Picture source Leonardo DRS United States)

Other improvements will benefit the armed forces in view of their reorientation from the counterinsurgency-era focused on light infantry and helicopters toward deterrence of a potential large “classic” attacks like during the Cold-War era.

“If you look at what we’ve done in the last fifteen years, it is a light, aviation-centric fight, so we took a fair amount of risk on the heavy force,” said John Daniels, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Plans, Programs, and Resources. “Now you are at a point where the system is starting to age out.... If you look at the ages of platforms and how long it takes to rebuild a heavy brigade, you (need to modernize) about one, 1.5 a year to really make a substantive change.” Will the Army sustain that rate over the long term? “We’ll have to see how ’19 and ’20 play out,” Daniels said.

Rapid progress and clear direction have been made on active protection systems, which shoot down incoming anti-tank missiles in flight. The M1A2 Abrams SEP V2/V3 is getting the Trophy Active Protection System from Israel’s Rafael. General Dynamics Land Systems Inc. (manufacturer of the tank) has been awarded the contract to integrate this sytem. The rival Iron Fist of IMI (Israeli Military Industries) and Iron Curtain (Artis, USA) APS for the M2 Bradley and Stryker troop carriers respectively remain in R&D, with procurement timelines and funding to be determined, officials said. The Trophy APS comes on top of other long-planned improvements in the M1 Abrams main battle tank, including new infrared sights, reinforced armor, and improved horsepower and electrical power to handle all the upgrades.

Trophy is a situational awareness and Active Protection Hard Kill (HK) System (APS) which is available in three main configurations: HV (Heavy armored Vehicle), MV (Medium and Light Armored Vehicle) and LV (Light Armored Vehicle). Both configurations dramatically boost the force’s survivability, and provide a vital add-on capability for the maneuvering combat teams.

Trophy-HV protects heavy (>30 ton) and medium weight (>15 ton) armored vehicles from a wide variety of threats ranging from rockets, ATGMs (Anti-Tank Guided Missiles) and platform-fired High-Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) rounds. Trophy-HV offers 360° protection in azimuth, as well as extensive elevation coverage, while maintaining a pre-defined safety zone for friendly troops on the ground. The neutralization process is initiated only if the threat is about to hit the vehicle.

This will considerably improve the protection of the tanks and their crew. Armor plating that protects soldiers inside vehicles is known as "passive protection," because it doesn't do anything except deflect or absorb blasts and projectiles. Active protection systems, or APS will increase survivability of the platforms and of those personnel inside.