Iron Curtain (countermeasure)
Iron Curtain is an active protection system (APS) designed by Artis, an American technology development and manufacturing firm. The system is designed to protect military vehicles and other assets by intercepting threats such as rocket-propelled grenades and other shoulder-launched missiles and rendering them inert.
Iron Curtain on a Stryker armored fighting vehicle
|Type||Active Protection System|
|Place of origin||United States|
The system was part of an accelerated acquisition effort by the U.S. Army to characterize and field active protection systems as quickly as possible. It was evaluated on the Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle, with two systems undergoing tests by the U.S. Army: one at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland and the other at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama.
Iron Curtain uses a radar to detect the incoming round and cue the system. It then switches from armed-ready state to an armed state. As the round comes into close range, the optical sensor profiles the threat and tracks it within 1 cm (0.39 in) of accuracy to select an aimpoint and determine which ballistic countermeasure to fire. The countermeasure deflagrates the RPG warhead without detonating it, leaving the dudded round to bounce off the vehicles side. Because of its shelf-like design, the system can be modified to protect almost any surface, from the sides of the vehicle to all around protection, including a turret. Artis claims that the Iron Curtain can be enhanced to protect against “more challenging threats” like the RPG-29 and RPG-32 ‘Hashim’ multipurpose anti-tank grenade launchers, which utilize tandem warheads for penetrating tanks with explosive reactive armor. Iron Curtain should also be able to defend against ATGMs (Anti-Tank Guided Missiles). The system has 360° coverage, is multi-shot, low-cost, low power, lightweight, and rugged and reliable.
The system, which began in 2005 as a DARPA program, is able to defeat threats even if fired from an extremely close range. It has undergone significant safety testing, including temperature and shock testing, and its software architecture has been approved by the U.S. military's Joint Services Weapons Safety Review Process. The countermeasure fires straight down or up, neutralizing the incoming threat within inches of the vehicle and thereby separating the system from many others which intercept threats several meters out, resulting in minimal risk of collateral damage to dismounted troops or civilians.
Iron Curtain is designed to be highly modular, and the system's radar does not need to track the threat; hence, a relatively inexpensive radar will suffice. To date, two radars have been integrated onto Iron Curtain: the Mustang radar developed by Mustang Technology Group in Plano, Texas and the RPS-10 radar, built by RADA Electronic Industries.
In 2016, the U.S. Army began an expedited effort to install and characterize several APSs, including Iron Curtain on the Stryker fighting vehicle, in preparation for fielding decisions by the Army.
In April 2013, the company announced it achieved a perfect score during rigorous government tests. “We proved not only that Iron Curtain defeats threats and saves lives, but the risk from collateral damage is minimal, especially when compared with the alternative," according to the company's CEO, Keith Brendley. He said the system is ready to be deployed onto battlefields.
To date, the system has been integrated onto four ground vehicles, including tracked, turreted and wheeled vehicles. In 2016, Iron Curtain was selected for integration onto the U.S. Army's Stryker, while the U.S. Army develops its Modular Active Protection System (MAPS). However, in August 2018 the Army decided not to continue qualifying Iron Curtain onto the Stryker, saying that while the system "generally worked in concept" and was "generally able to hit its targets," it was still not mature enough and would have required greater time and investment than was within the scope of the program. The system could not function reliably under field conditions such as in rain or snow, and while moving over rough terrain; it also didn’t fit well on the Stryker vehicle itself.
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