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Leonardo UK has confirmed that in November 2020 it will complete, on schedule, the contract for the ICARUS Technology Demonstrator Programme (TDP) which in the longer term will enable the British Army to field agile automatic Active Protection Systems (APS) on its current and future armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) platforms to enhance their survivability against a wide range of battlefield threats.

Following completion of a competitive selection process, in June 2017, the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) awarded the ICARUS TDP to Leonardo UK with a value of £10M. The ICARUS TDP forms a pillar of the UK DSTL Active Integrated Protection Systems (AIPS) strategy. While Leonardo UK are the prime contractor, there are a number of sub-contractors that former part of the ICARUS team. Including Abstract Solutions, Frazer Nash, Lockheed Martin UK, Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL), Roke Manor Research, SCISYS CGI and Ultra Electronics.

The UK ICARUS Technology Demonstrator Programme is a key part of a programme to enable the British Army to field Automatic Active Protection Systems on its armoured fighting vehicles to enable a wide range of guided and unguided threats to be neutralised. (Photo: Leonardo UK)

Outputs and Objectives

A key requirement of the APS is that it should detect and defeat threat anti-tank missiles (ATM) and unguided projectiles with the latter including the widely deployed Russian RPG-7 type weapon.

According to Ray Hopkins, Vice President Capability for Leonardo UK, “The following outputs have been accomplished:

  1. Modular Integrated Protection Systems (MIPS) system model established defining the MIPS architecture
  2. MIPS DATA Model developed to define the data flows both internal and external to the MIPS system
  3. MIPS Data Infrastructure defined based on the use of a Time Sensitive Network (TSN) infrastructure and Data Distribution Service (DDS) middleware
  4. Software architecture developed for the MIPS Controller that supports verification and validation of the system using a synthetic environment
  5. Commercially available APS sub-systems acquired for the purposes of physical system integration and MIPS system demonstration
  6. MIPS Human Machine Interface (HMI) defined that facilitates system control via a GVA compliant crew station
  7. Framework established for a Draft Modular Dependability Case
  8. Basic structure and content defined for the MIPS standard “

By the end of the TDP the following objectives to be delivered under the programme include:

  1. MIPS demonstrator system integration
  2. Demonstration and evaluation of the MIPS system architecture and control solution using the acquired APS sensors and effectors that have been adapted to interface to interface with the MIPS architecture
  3. MIPS system architecture using a synthetic environment
  4. Development of the GVA based MIPS HMI for demonstration purposes
  5. Completion of the MIPS Data Model including the recommendation of enhancements to the GVA Land Data Model
  6. Completion and issue of the Modular Dependability Case Framework
  7. Completion and issue of the Draft MIPS standard

The TDP is essentially a proof of concept programme to develop a MIPS approach that includes an APS Electronic Architecture (EA) that is founded on Modular Open System Architecture (MOSA) and Model Driven Design (MDD) principles. This will provide a common infrastructure and enable commercial off the shelf APS sensors and countermeasures to be selected and integrated into a system that which can be rapidly tailored to counter the evolving threats and with the UK maintaining sovereign control over the system level design and tactics associated with the layered countermeasure response.


The TDP combines both hard and soft kill countermeasures to defeat the threat and will end later this year with a demonstrator which will be developed to Technology Readiness Level 5 (TRL 5) maturity, enabling the MIPS system solution to be demonstrated in a simulated environment. In addition, Leonardo UK is leading a UK industry APS Community of Interest and Action (UKACIA) working group in conjunction with DSTL with the aim of this group being to engage with UK industry to ensure that the very best APS technologies available – now and in the future – are considered within the MIPS EA.

A UKACIA meeting was held in the UK earlier this year and this was attended by 28 different industrial organisations covering seven different countries. The UK and other NATO countries are working together to establish a NATO standard for a “Land DAS Architecture“ – STANAG 4822. Leonardo UK has already played a key role in the development of the UK’s Generic Vehicle Architecture (GVA) standard the NATO related NATO-GVA (N-GVA) standard. The TDP outcome will also include a Dependability Case that will provide for the safe deployment of modular, automated solutions in the complex land environment. In addition, there will be a reference MIPS Capability Modelling & Integration approach that will be used to de-risk the specification, procurement, integration and deployment of the “best in class“ APS equipment, sensors and effectors from the marketplace. The programme will also provide an understanding of the impacts associated with the fielding, deployment and operation of automated, modular APS solutions and an integrated approach to platform survivability across the Defence Lines of Development (DLoDs). There will also be a roadmap for future development of UK APS sovereign capability to deliver future Operational Advantage (OA) and assure UK Freedom of Action.


The installation of an APS onto an AFV is not an easy task and while there is usually sufficient room on an MBT turret, for example, there may well be insufficient room on other platforms due to installation of commander’s and gunner’s sights, remote weapon stations, laser detectors, electrically operated grenade launchers, camera’s for situational awareness, acoustic gunfire detection devices and in some cases electronic devices to counter Improvised Explosive Devices (IED). In addition, hard kill APS could have an impact on people in the close proximity to the platform who could, when the platform is deployed in an urban environment be civilians.

It is understood that in the short term the British Army is expected to acquire an off-the-shelf APS solution on its RBSL CHALLENGER 2 main battle tanks (MBT) to be followed by what is expected to be MIPS-compliant APS on other platforms including the General Dynamics Land Systems UK AJAX family of vehicles, WARRIOR infantry fighting vehicle and BOXER (8×8) mechanised infantry vehicle (MIV). Of these only the AJAX FOV is currently in production and none are currently deployed by the British Army.

In some parts of the world, especially during counter insurgency (COIN) type operations, the main threat is from unguided weapons such as the RPG and IED. Due to the wide range of threats, which depend on where the platform is to be deployed a one-size-fits-all solution does not exist for all threats according to Leonardo UK. They added, “a singular, full spectrum, layered integrated APS solution is considered to be neither affordable nor physically capable of being installed on all armoured platforms and neither would it be necessary for it to be integrated for all platforms for all operational scenarios”.

It is logical that owing to the number of different platforms to which potentially a MIPS APS could be fitted, the UK could opt for a MIPS System Integrator to ensure coherence, commonality and re-use across the vehicle fleet.

Ray Hopkins added, “Leonardo is well suited to meet this potential requirement as we already operate in a similar Pan-fleet role under a contractual framework arrangement with the Danish Defence Acquisition and Logistics Organisation (DALO)“.

CHALLENGER 2 MBT fitted with the Hensoldt MUSS soft kill APS on the turret roof which was put through a series of trials in Australia under the QinetiQ headed project MEDUSA (Photo: QinetiQ)

Under this framework, Leonardo has been contracted to deliver a GVA-compliant infrastructure that comprises modular hardware and re-usable software to provide Local Situational Awareness (LSA) across the complete Danish Army fleet ranging from the LEOPARD 2 MBT through to the latest PIRANHA 5 (8×8) and their trucks. While in the short term MIPS will provide the platform with protection against ATM and RPG type weapons, in the longer term the aim is to provide a fully integrated, modular and layered system that will detect, track and defeat a wide range of threats and also provide the crew with situational awareness and target cueing.

Future APS Technologies

Combat proven RAFAEL Advanced Defense Systems TROPHY active protection system integrated onto a MERKAVA Mk 4 MBT of the Israel Defense Force (Photo: RAFAEL)

According to Leonardo, future APS technologies that could benefit from integration as part of a MIPS approach could also include future Electronic Counter-Measures (ECM) and Directed Energy Weapons (DEW). In the past, the main way to provide enhanced protection of AFVs on the battlefield was to increase the level of protection by providing additional passive armour or explosive reactive armour (ERA) or a combination of these.

This has led to AFV’s that are larger, heavier and more difficult not only to transport overseas but also to be utilised in theatre as they have a higher ground pressure and their size and weight limits their employment.

Potential near-term COTS could include elements from the RAFAEL Advanced Defense Systems Trophy hard kill system which has been proven in combat by the Israel Defense Force on the MERKAVA Mk 4 MBT and is also being installed on General Dynamics Land Systems M1A2 ABRAMS for the US Army. Elements from the Elbit (previously Israel Military Industries) IRON FIST APS selected for the new Israeli EITAN (8×8) APC could also be a contender.

In addition to the ICARUS TDP contract, the DSTL placed a £7.6M contract in mid-2016 with QinetiQ to evaluate the Hensoldt Multifunctional Self-Protection System (MUSS) soft-kill APS which is currently deployed on the German Army PUMA Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle (AIFV). MUSS is a soft kill APS and jams the incoming threat before it impacts the platform.

This programme, called Medusa, was completed late in 2019 with the system installed on a CHALLENGER 2 MBT with most of the live trials undertaken in Australia and information from this feeds into the broader UK AIPS programme. While QinetiQ was the lead other contractors included the now RBSL, Frazer-Nash Consultancy and Textron ESL. The Australian trials were conducted as part of the AUS/UK bi-lateral partnership between DSTL and DST Group (Australia) and also supported by the Anglo-German MoU held with BAAINBw.

Christopher F. Foss has been writing on armoured fighting vehicles and artillery systems since 1970 since 1970, and until recently wrote for Jane’s on fighting vehicles, artillery and air defence. He has lectured around the world on these topics, as well as chairing conferences all over the world. He has also driven over 50 tracked and wheeled AFVs.