In a recent US Army live fire exercise, an automatic countermeasure system successfully deflected 15 out of 15 anti-tank guided missile attacks. The Lockheed Martin Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) detected the incoming missiles during the Army's six-week "rodeo" at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama and deflected them off target by jamming their guidance signals.

Ever since the first tank was fielded during the First World War, there has been a perpetual arms race between tanks and anti-tank weapons. Every time a better class of armor was developed, a better bullet, shell, rocket or missile was invented. As a result, main battle tanks went from weighing 28 tons and carrying steel plates to 70-ton monsters with angled composite Chobham armor.

But armor isn't the only way that modern tanks are protected. In recent years, passive defenses have been augmented by active ones like MAPS, which counter incoming threats before they reach target.

According to Lockheed, MAPS has been in production since 2014 and is a collection of sensors and "soft" countermeasures that detect missiles and and then deflect them from their target. How this is done is the selling point, because MAPS is a modular, open-architecture system that allows it to not only be reconfigured for specific platforms and missions, but to also accept modules developed by third parties.

MAPS is a distributed system consisting of a base kit made up of a controller, user interface, power management distribution system, network switch, and application software for controlling and directing sensors and countermeasures. This allows it to be installed on current vehicles, and also to support future vehicle protection systems.

In the recent rodeo, the Army integrated three new countermeasures and a cueing sensor into MAPS. In addition, Lockheed led efforts to integrate an Ariel Photonics countermeasure into the MAPS framework, and worked with BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman to support the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Ground Vehicle Systems Center with equipment integration.

"The success of the Army's testing shows the effectiveness of an active protection system that can rapidly refresh with new components to meet specific mission and platform requirements," says Michael Williamson, vice president of Sensors & Global Sustainment at Lockheed Martin.

The video below explains how MAPS works.

View gallery - 6 images