The modern armoured units are facing all sorts of dangers on the battlefield. As the tanks, AFVs and APCs are some of the most valuable targets for the enemy; it is natural that the development of arms for fighting them produced some truly powerful weapons.
The rocket propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles and new HEAT rounds for the tanks became so powerful that the shear armour thickness became insufficient. This caused the evolution of the Active Protection Systems (APS) both in the NATO and the eastern bloc.
The first painful lesson was given to the Soviets in the Afghanistan campaign and the response to that was the Drozd Active Protection System. It consists of radar and two sets of hollow charges that were designed to intercept and destroy the missiles. They were fitted on the soviet T-55 tanks and have proven to be quite successful as the survivability rate of the tanks equipped with Drozd APS went up by 80%. The downside was the fact that the collateral damage was pretty high amongst the infantry protecting the tank so the entire project was halted. Nowadays, there are still some 200 of these systems in use mainly fitted on the T-55s of the Russian Naval Infantry.
The Chechen war was a second slap in the face the Russian military received and in the mid 90’s they developed a new and improved version of Drozd called the Arena Aactive Protection System. It has higher efficiency and the collateral damage is reduced to almost none. It covers the angle of 340 degrees and that provides the tank with the chance to intercept any rocket propelled grenade, AT missile or HEAT shell fired from other tanks. The export version, Arena–E has the ability to intercept any round that is travelling at speed between 7 m/s and 700 m/s so it gives the protection against anything except the kinetic penetrators. It is also capable of identifying the shells that will miss and the other objects that are no threat to the vehicle so it is highly effective and increases the survivability of the tank by 150%-200%. It is possible to install the Arena APS on almost any vehicle and the only limitation is its weight of over 1 metric ton. The price of the unit is somewhere around $300.000 and it is fitted as the standard equipment on the new T-72B3 tanks.
The NATO got its share of beating during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and that compelled the US to think about incorporating the Active Protection System in their armoured units. Still, the Lebanon conflict between the Israel and the Hezbollah was the turning point for the western countries. After a number of mighty Merkava Mk IV tanks were destroyed by the Russian Cornet AT missiles, the IMI developed the Iron Fist APS.
It is very similar to the Russian Arena APS by its basic characteristics, but it is significantly smaller in size. Also, it is capable of intercepting the kinetic energy penetrators, and that gives it a clear advantage against the Arena. Still, the project was halted by the IDF as they decided to pursue Trophy APS as the solution for their armoured forces.
The Iron Fist has numerous similarities with the Quick Kill APS developed for the US army and it is expected that it will see active service within the US military.
The final operational APS is the Israeli developed Trophy APS. It is fitted on their Merkava IV tanks and has seen some battle already in the Gaza Region. It has proven to be very effective as it managed both to defeat the RPG in real situation and to notify the crew of the potential threat when the RPG missed the tank. It uses similar technology to the Iron Fist but it is fitted into the chassis and uses the shotgun blast to neutralize the targets. The new models have the recharge ability and the portable, lighter version for the APCs is under the development. The estimated price of the Trophy APS is $600.000 per unit.