Britain’s new tanks will blast missiles off course using bullets

Britain’s new fleet of tanks will blast incoming missiles off course by firing thousands of tiny bullets at them, the MoD has said.

Trials of an Israeli-made Active Protection System (APS) are due to start soon as the army upgrades its heavy armour regiments to produce 148 Challenger 3 tanks.

The Trophy anti-missile system is designed to recognise incoming enemy rocket-propelled grenades (RPG), guided weapons and other munitions and destroy them before they hit the tank.

Colonel Will Waugh, director of the UK’s Armour Main Battle Tank Programme, said: "This technology, already battle proven with our international allies and partners, will deliver a step change in protection against guided and unguided anti-tank weapons: a threat that continues to proliferate around the world and grow in lethality. 

"This marks another step forward in delivering a modernised main battle tank able to defeat any threat it might meet in the future."

Trophy is the only fully-integrated, combat-tested APS in the world and has been installed on Israel Defense Forces’ Merkava tanks since 2010.

Israeli forces started work on Trophy in the early 2000s, but it was the loss of several Merkava tanks in the 2006 war in Lebanon that accelerated efforts to develop APS. 

The US Army has also fitted the system to their Abrams tanks. 

On July 14, 2014 Hamas militants filmed themselves in Gaza firing Russian-made man-portable Kornet anti-tank missiles at Israeli vehicles. 

Instead of showing the destruction of Israeli armour, the film shows the Trophy system defeating the incoming round.

A similar film, shot on July 22, 2014, shows a Hamas attack using RPG-29 munitions. The Trophy system functioned again, protecting the vehicle and crew.

The Trophy system uses small phased-array radars that detect incoming anti-tank munitions, calculates the best time to fire back and discharges countermeasures to intercept the flight path of the incoming missile, or cause the warhead to function early. 

The tank being attacked can slew the gun onto the bearing and fire back, automatically if need be, although The Telegraph understands the Israeli Defence Force does not allow the system to have full autonomy.

Trophy tank defence system

If linked to the wider battle-management system, the hostile firing location will appear on screens in other tanks to allow supporting vehicles to fire on the enemy position.

The British army plans to use digital technology to link units and vehicles together in this way, to allow instant communication of threats to be passed to the most appropriate weapon system, although the "digital backbone" and countermeasure element is not part of the MoD’s Trophy trial.

Trophy will not, however, significantly disrupt kinetic energy rounds that are difficult to stop as they are moving so fast – over a mile a second.

At these speeds protection systems and tank armour are almost always overmatched.

However, Ben Barry, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, says systems such as Trophy swings the battlefield advantage back in the tank’s favour.

He believes Russia’s armour-heavy invasion of Ukraine in 2014 shows how Nato should be developing APS alongside anti-tank weapons capable of defeating such systems on vehicles like the T-14 Armata, Russia’s latest tank. 

"The prospect that adversaries may have active protection systems should be concentrating the minds of all Nato armies," Mr Barry told the Telegraph.

"So far we’ve seen very little evidence that many of them, in public at least, are sitting up and paying attention."

The system is thought to cost around £500,000 per vehicle. No exact details have been given regarding how many Challenger 3s will be fitted with the Trophy system.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *