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SPECIAL REPORT

Advances in RPG Protection Technology Next-Generation Passive RPG Protection Systems Adapting to the Evolving Threat of the RPG Investing in New Technologies The Future of RPG Protection Assessing the Next Generation of RPG Protection

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Published by Global Business Media


When Failure Is Not An Option

Lightweight.

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Q–Net

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SPECIAL REPORT: ADVANCES IN RPG PROTECTION TECHNOLOGY

SPECIAL REPORT

Advances in RPG Protection Technology Next-Generation Passive RPG Protection Systems Adapting to the Evolving Threat of the RPG

Contents

Investing in New Technologies The Future of RPG Protection Assessing the Next Generation of RPG Protection

Foreword 2 Tom Cropper, Editor

Next-Generation Passive RPG Protection Systems

3

Michael Andrewartha, Product Line Manager, Survivability, QinetiQ North America Scott Quigley, Principal Engineer, QinetiQ North America Sponsored by

Published by Global Business Media

Problem Statement How Passive RPG Protection Works

Published by Global Business Media

The Evolution of Passive Defeat Technology

Global Business Media Limited 62 The Street Ashtead Surrey KT21 1AT United Kingdom

Q-NET Development

Switchboard: +44 (0)1737 850 939 Fax: +44 (0)1737 851 952 Email: info@globalbusinessmedia.org Website: www.globalbusinessmedia.org

Q-NET Advantages Next-Generation Passive RPG Defeat System – Q-NET II Q-NET II Improvements

Adapting to the Evolving Threat of the RPG

Publisher Kevin Bell

Tom Cropper, Editor

Business Development Director Marie-Anne Brooks

The Evolution of the RPG

Editor Tom Cropper Senior Project Manager Steve Banks

Lessons Learned So What Might The Next Wars Look Like?

Investing in New Technologies

Advertising Executives Michael McCarthy Abigail Coombes

James Butler, Staff Writer

Production Manager Paul Davies

Into the Future

For further information visit: www.globalbusinessmedia.org

The Future of RPG Protection

The opinions and views expressed in the editorial content in this publication are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily represent the views of any organisation with which they may be associated. Material in advertisements and promotional features may be considered to represent the views of the advertisers and promoters. The views and opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily express the views of the Publishers or the Editor. While every care has been taken in the preparation of this publication, neither the Publishers nor the Editor are responsible for such opinions and views or for any inaccuracies in the articles. Š 2015. The entire contents of this publication are protected by copyright. Full details are available from the Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.

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Maintaining Investment

11

Jo Roth, Staff Writer

The Challenge Explosive Armor Non-Explosives Passive Net Protection Systems

Assessing the Next Generation of RPG Protection

13

Tom Cropper, Editor

A Busy Market Assessment Efficiencies

References 15

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SPECIAL REPORT: ADVANCES IN RPG PROTECTION TECHNOLOGY

Foreword T

HEY’RE CHEAP and freely available,

NATO member nations including the UK and

which means the rocket propelled grenade

Germany are cutting back their budgets while the US

has become a weapon of choice for terrorist

has announced plans for a major scale back of its

organizations and insurgencies around the world.

armed forces. All this comes at a time when the global

Although they’re one of the oldest and most simple

geopolitical situation is becoming more complex,

weapons in the field, they remain as dangerous

China and Russia are investing in their armed forces

as ever. For all the advances in military defense

and new terrorist threats such as ISIS are making

technology over the years, developing effective

themselves felt across the board.

counter measures remains an elusive challenge.

For all the financial constraints military commanders

In the first article in this report, Michael Andrewartha

are operating under, investment in new technologies

, Product Line Manager, Survivability, QinetiQ North

remains a priority. In the third and fourth articles in

America and Scott Quigley, Principal Engineer, QinetiQ

this report we’ll take a look at the innovations taking

North America examine the evolution of the next

place now and into the future as well as examining

generation of passive anti RPG protection systems.

what considerations armies should take into account

From heavy and cumbersome armor plating, the

when developing new technologies. Most of all we’ll

technology is evolving to become lighter, more mobile

investigate what lessons have been learned about the

and easier to repair. They explain some of the ground-

threat posed by RPGs and how defensive technologies

breaking innovations in constrictive net technology

are evolving to meet these new challenges.

which offers a more effective form of protection. However, introducing new technologies such as these is made more difficult by the challenging economic backdrop against which they are working.

Tom Cropper Editor

Tom Cropper has produced articles and reports on various aspects of global business over the last 15 years. He has also worked as a copywriter for some of the largest corporations in the world, including ING, KPMG and the World Wildlife Fund.

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SPECIAL REPORT: ADVANCES IN RPG PROTECTION TECHNOLOGY

Next-Generation Passive RPG Protection Systems

Q–Net™

RPG Defeat Net

Michael Andrewartha, Product Line Manager, Survivability, QinetiQ North America Scott Quigley, Principal Engineer, QinetiQ North America

Problem Statement For more than 50 years, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), have been responsible for lost lives and destruction of military vehicles. The RPG-7 family of grenades, specifically the anti-tank, shaped- charge versions, are weapons of choice in battlefields worldwide. These low-cost and readilyavailable weapons can penetrate over 300mm of rolled homogenous armor, posing a lethal threat to vehicle occupants and systems.

I

N THE past quarter century, QinetiQ North America (QNA) has fielded the most widely-deployed RPG protection system in the world. In 2009, QNA introduced Q-NET®, an innovative protective-net solution that reduced the weight of passive protection by up to 60% and extended protection to a broader range of vehicles. Q-NET has been successfully deployed on over 13,000 platforms in the past six years, providing protection to vehicles and soldiers worldwide. QinetiQ North America continues to work at the forefront of RPG protection and has developed a next-generation technology that is even lighter weight and easier to deploy in the field.

How Passive RPG Protection Works: Passive RPG protection works in two ways: • By disrupting the fuse train • By disrupting or distorting the liner of the shaped charge to reduce the effectiveness of the shaped charge jet (the method used in traditional slat or bar armor) Passive RPG systems do not “catch the RPG,” and do not intentionally detonate the RPG at a distance. A shaped charge, detonated at any reasonable standoff from its target, would still likely penetrate the hull of any of today’s ground vehicles. Traditionally, slat or bar armor solutions were used as a brute-force method of reducing the penetrative capability of RPGs. However, as most military vehicles cannot bear the weight of slat/bar armor, lightweight systems such as Q-NET have become the preferred method of passive RPG protection.

The Evolution of Passive Defeat Technology Development of passive defeat systems began in the early 2000’s to address the need for better RPG protection across a wide range of vehicles. Previously only very large vehicles could be equipped with RPG protection, because they were the only vehicles capable of supporting the weight of slat armors. The need for a lightweight solution initially led to the development of high-strength, textile-based solutions that worked by disrupting the fuse mechanism of incoming RPGs. After years of research and development focusing on material selection, mesh and cord size analysis, laboratory simulation and live fire testing, a system was produced that was capable of defeating threats while maintaining a significantly reduced total system weight, as compared to slat armor. However, textile-only based solutions also had challenging limitations: - The systems relied on strong woven cords to develop enough constricting force on the round to defeat it. The resulting cords were so strong, however, that if the piezoelectric fuse struck one, it could detonate the round – allowing the shaped charge to form a jet that could penetrate the vehicle. - The openings in the net mesh had to be limited in size to ensure that smaller-diameter RPG threats could not enter, enabling a fuse to strike a cord and detonate. - The small openings and large cords made it difficult to protect windshields and windows without obscuring the occupant’s field of vision.

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Proven protection for your most important assets.

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SPECIAL REPORT: ADVANCES IN RPG PROTECTION TECHNOLOGY

- Textile systems are very susceptible to environmental conditions and have to be replaced regularly – especially with the extreme conditions seen in Afghanistan and Iraq. Based on these findings, QinetiQ North America’s development team focused their efforts on a new solution that could offer both the lower weight of the textile system, and the protective effectiveness and other advantages of the high weight metallic system.

Q-NET Development System developers at QinetiQ North America determined that the following design requirements would be key for a successful solution: • Minimize the area presented to the RPG fuse, thus decreasing the chance for a fuse strike • Eliminate the need to tension the net, in order to avoid having to adjust or maintain the system during combat operations • Minimize the system standoff (distance from the system to the vehicle hull) • Make the system simple to install, maintain and repair • A ddress potential for human error in manufacturing by automating the process as much as possible (e.g. loom-based textile element fabrication vs. hand weaving) The resulting technology—called Q-NET— provided a significantly improved system for RPG defeat. The Q-NET approach uses a different technology to crush the nose cone of the RPG and disrupt the fuse mechanism, thus rendering it inert. The system can best be compared to existing active protection

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systems (APS). When an incoming threat is detected and evaluated, a countermeasure is launched (usually a missile). The countermeasure then explodes at a given distance from where the threat is estimated to be, showering the incoming threat with a hail of fragments that deflagrate the threat and destroy it. In contrast, Q-NET simply suspends a cloud of fragments, or “nodes,” in the threat’s line of fire. The system utilizes the velocity of the threat impacting these nodes to create deflagration and destroy the incoming RPG. The optimized size, shape, mass and orientation of the nodes are designed to kill the fuse train, preventing the shaped charge from entering. To accelerate development of the system, QinetiQ North America designed and built an in-house Rapid Test Facility (RTF) where the system could be tested against RPG fired from an air cannon at prototypical velocities. In this way, hundreds of node configurations could be quickly tested and evaluated in order to arrive at the best possible system design.

Q-NET Advantages The Q-NET design offers the utmost in passive RPG defeat performance over a wide range of threats and conditions, and at all angles. • Q-NET does not obscure the vision of the driver and passengers; therefore it can be used around the entirety of the vehicle. • The cords used to hold the nodes are durable in combat operations, yet light enough to be transparent to the piezo- electric fuse of an

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SPECIAL REPORT: ADVANCES IN RPG PROTECTION TECHNOLOGY

Protecting your most important assets.

Q–Net RPG. When the fuse strikes a Q-NET cord, the cord breaks and the round travels forward to be defeated by the nodes. • Q-NET has low standoff from the vehicle and does not deflect RPGs. Due to the mass of the individual nodes, standoff can be as little as 15 centimeters, as compared to constrictor net technology that may require up to 30 centimeters of standoff. • B ecause the nodes remain relatively stationary during an engagement, the areas surrounding the impact site remain available to defeat additional incoming rounds (i.e. multi-shot capability). • Tool-free installation of nets allows panels to be quickly installed or removed. • “A” kit mounting brackets do not require modification of the vehicle. • Battle Damage Repair Kit (BDRK) allows for rapid repairs (~5 minutes) to damaged nets, which can continue to be used until replacements are installed. QinetiQ North America conducted Q-NET evaluation and testing in conjunction with TARDEC, the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) and PM-MRAP. Q-NET demonstrated significantly better performance than competing systems, and is the only system other than heritage bar and slat armor approved by the U.S. military for passive RPG ground vehicle protection. The system has been in continuous operation protecting U.S. and NATO troops since 2009.

Next-Generation Passive RPG Defeat System – Q-NET II In 2012, QinetiQ North America began developing an improved Q- NET system,

RPG Defeat Net

• Durable • Low Cost • Adaptable • Life Saving

named Q-NET II, to improve defeat performance and ease of deployment. Hundreds of new node configurations were tested to improve the system’s effectiveness across a broader range of threats. Q-NET II was fielded in 2014 with the following significant improvements:

Q-NET II Improvements: • O ptimized node design and spacing provides a 15% defeat performance improvement, with a 10% weight reduction. • Improved frame design reduces parts count and weight. • Flexible frame components enable the frame to absorb collisions.

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SPECIAL REPORT: ADVANCES IN RPG PROTECTION TECHNOLOGY

• Optional diamond nets over windshields enable drivers to more easily recognize horizontal lines (trip wires, etc.). Upon completion of the development cycle, a series of live fire trials were conducted to validate the new design. In all aspects, the live fire performance of the new design closely matched predicted results obtained during testing in the Rapid Test Facility. After the live fire trials, Q-NET II was tested and approved by the United States Army Test and Evaluation Command, and was subsequently evaluated in separate

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customer-funded live fire trials, where it demonstrated excellent performance against a range of threats. The Q-NET II system is currently offered in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, with future programs planned in the US. Q-NET II, in conjunction with QinetiQ North America’s opaque armor, ballistic spall liners, blast- mitigating seats and underbelly blast protection products, make up QinetiQ North America’s suite of military protection products, which are deployed worldwide protecting warfighters and their equipment.

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SPECIAL REPORT: ADVANCES IN RPG PROTECTION TECHNOLOGY

Adapting to the Evolving Threat of the RPG

Survivability Armor

Tom Cropper, Editor

The RPG proved an extremely effective weapon for insurgence in Iraq and Afghanistan, so what lessons can be taken for the future?

A

S ALLIED troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan they met a threat they weren’t fully prepared for – the prevalence of the RPG. These hand held rocket launchers are cheap, simple to use and can be difficult to counter, making them ideal for the so called shoot and scoot tactics insurgents needed to use against the much better armed US units. The challenges of adapting to these threats involved a number of highly important lessons for these and other future conflicts.

The Evolution of the RPG The RPG traces its origins back to the bazookas of World War Two which helped the US combat the devastating power of German Tanks. Since then it has been a great equalizer in the battle between tanks and infantry. It really came to fame with the arrival of the Russian made RP7. An evolution of the RPG2 which it replaced this featured much greater firepower and range. It was first used in the Arab/Israeli war where it proved devastatingly effective against the armored units of the Israeli forces, but it only really came to the attention of the West with the arrival of the Vietnam War. The RPG7 has remained in service ever since, and just as the North Vietnamese used it against the better armed forces, so too have guerrilla forces ever since. The beauty of the weapon is its simplicity. It features relatively little back blast which means it can be shot in confined spaces; and it is compact enough to be carried and packed away at a moment’s notice. It can carry a number of different warheads and, according to the US military’s assessment of the RPG7, a grenade fired from 1,300 feet can punch a hole through nearly 11 inches of armor1. The main attraction is that they are cheap. RPGs can be bought quite easily on the black market for only $20USD making them freely available for just about anyone. What’s more, they are simple

to use, easy to deploy and very difficult to stop. Once a missile is on its way there are only so many things that can be done to stop it. In Iraq and Afghanistan RPG weapons caught the allies by surprise. Traditionally this has been a weapon for use against tanks and heavily armored vehicles, but in this war they were used against Jeeps, Humvees, Land Rovers and other thin skinned vehicles, none of which were set up to repel such attacks.

Lessons Learned The lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, then, are that low tech weapons can and will present a major threat to even the best funded and equipped army in the world. The weapon is not just targeting armored personnel carriers, but is being used to attack aircraft and lighter and more thinly armored military vehicles. Adequate protection is therefore vital, but much of the existing systems are not up to scratch. A different solution is therefore required. The most basic form of armor is metal bar plating – which can be fixed to the sides of the vehicles. However this is heavy and cumbersome, takes a long time to repair and often fails to provide enough protection. The search is on for new solutions which range from the hi tech, through radar guided systems which detect and destroy incoming missiles, to the more lightweight, such as constrictor nets which attempt to catch and eliminate the threat. In adopting and developing new anti RPG threats, military commanders will need to be more forward thinking in how they approach new theatres of war. The last 20 years have seen western armies adapting to fight in desert conditions. This brings with it a range of challenges such as sand and dust which can make it impossible for some vehicles to operate. In the past, armies have come up against problems and then developed solutions.

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SPECIAL REPORT: ADVANCES IN RPG PROTECTION TECHNOLOGY

Had the army had an adequate appreciation of the role RPG launchers could play in Iraq and Afghanistan, they could have been better protected which would, in turn, have saved lives

THE Q-NET DESIGN REDUCES CHASSIS FATIGUE AND INCREASES FUEL EFFICIENCY

Progressively, those experiences, though, have taught them the benefit of predicting problems before they arise. Had the army had an adequate appreciation of the role RPG launchers could play in Iraq and Afghanistan, they could have been better protected which would, in turn, have saved lives.

So What Might The Next Wars Look Like? The military operation in Afghanistan is drawing to a close, which means major powers are switching their attention elsewhere. The US is concerned with projecting its power in the Pacific where the major challenges include North Korea and China. Meanwhile, they continue to be active in the Middle East where the rise of ISIS creates an entirely new challenge. Other armies are also involved in countering ISIS through bombing missions in Iraq and Syria, but this is a threat which may not be contained just in the Middle East. The influence of Islamic extremism extends all around the world, whether it’s home grown extremists in the West, Boko Haram in Africa or even in the Far East where Japan and Indonesia have recently

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signed a military cooperation agreement based on the rising threat of extremism. In Europe, meanwhile, the crisis in Ukraine and an increasingly aggressive Russia present further threats to geopolitical stability and have the potential to include some form of intervention at some point. While direct confrontation with powers the size of Russia or China would seem to be a remote possibility, conflicts against other separatist groups such as ISIS remain highly probable. Although military commanders say there are no plans currently in place to extend the air campaign to ground troops, the continued threat of ISIS makes this a significant possibility. In assessing these future possible conflicts, commanders will be trying to think about the range of threats and challenges they could face. In doing so, the RPG will continue to represent an ever present and constant threat – just as it has for decades. Evolving effective counter-measures will, therefore, be of paramount importance. The next articles in this Report will focus on the challenges being faced and the innovation taking place.


SPECIAL REPORT: ADVANCES IN RPG PROTECTION TECHNOLOGY

Investing in New Technologies

Protection for your most important assets.

James Butler, Staff Writer

Military spending among NATO countries is in decline, but investment in new technologies is crucial to cater for the threats of the future.

P

LANS BY major military powers such as the UK, Germany and US to reduce military spending has sent a flutter of panic through the press about the readiness of our armed forces. With money getting tight across the board, military commanders need to be much more astute about how they use the budgets available to them. With its members going through major belt tightening, NATO’S spending target of 2% of GDP for its member countries is beginning to look like wishful thinking. Currently, only four member countries meet this target and that number looks likely to be going down in the future, rather than up. Research by Denitsa and Raynova showed that six countries planned to reduce their defense spending, including two of the biggest spenders – the UK and Germany. France, the other big hitter in Europe, plans to remain static.2 The UK’s commitment to the 2% threshold appears to be seriously under threat. Britain currently stands just above the 2% mark and while this commitment lasts until the next election, there are no guarantees that it will continue beyond then. The cuts have sparked plenty of debate. Military chiefs are reported to be dissatisfied with the cuts with the Daily Mirror reporting that some of the UK’s top military chiefs could resign in protest.3 Meanwhile, President Obama has warned that the UK’s cuts have the potential to weaken NATO at a critical time,4 while a top US General admitted to concerns about the UK’s spending, suggesting it could harm its ability to fight as an independent fighting force in the future.5 However, US Generals might equally be concerned at spending in their own country. As operations wind down after Afghanistan, plans are in place for a major reduction in the size of the US army. A proposed budget by the then US Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, would see the army reduced to its smallest size since the Second World War. The proposals

suggest cutting 80,000 soldiers, 10,000 marines and the complete scrapping of all A10 Warthogs. The consequences of such cuts could be severe. Speaking to USA News a source said: “You’ll have a smaller force, a less capable force, maybe a force that cannot react as quickly. That gives you less margin of error in what could end up being major ground warfare anywhere in the world.”6 Moreover it has brought official investment in innovations and new technologies to a virtual standstill.

Maintaining Investment Defense spending cuts represent a tempting option for governments looking to reduce overall spending. It’s one of the largest areas of spend and so represents an area of significant savings potential. The trouble is the international geopolitical situation shows no sign of getting any easier. In the Pacific, North Korea continues to be a problem while concern continues to grow over the intentions of China. A poll by Pew Research Centre showed that 93% of Filipinos, 85% of Japanese and 83% of South Koreans were concerned by the territorial ambitions of the Chinese.7 While the US and its allies are scaling back their armed forces, China is upping spending by 10%8. Meanwhile, the crisis in the Ukraine, the growing threat of ISIS and Islamic terrorism and rising tensions between the US and Russia, all challenge the traditional dominance of US military power in different ways. There are a number of possible solutions to this problem. In Europe, plans have been proposed for a new European army which could defend Europe against any threat from Russia and ISIS. The army would be able to come to the defense of member nations even if the US army was unable or unwilling to act.9 With investment from governments into innovations stalling, meanwhile, the slack is being taken up by independent contractors who

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SPECIAL REPORT: ADVANCES IN RPG PROTECTION TECHNOLOGY

For developers the challenge is two-fold – creating the new technology and then demonstrating its worth to potential buyers

Q-NET HAS DEMONSTRATED SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER PERFORMANCE THAN COMPETING SYSTEMS.

continue to invest in their own innovations and new technologies to address the new threats facing soldiers. When it comes to RPG protection, the overriding consideration, as always, is to reduce casualty rates. However, secondary requirements are for cost reduction, improved mobility and reduced maintenance time. Traditional metal bar plating is heavy and cumbersome, and makes it difficult for vehicles to move in some situations. Sheared-off plating, meanwhile, potentially can also present a safety concern of its own. The search for alternatives has thrown up a number of different options, such as lighter weight metal plating, constructor nets, explosive charges, electronic platings and high tech defense systems, to name just a few. Each of these solutions has its own advantages and drawbacks. For developers the challenge is two-fold – creating the new technology and then demonstrating its worth to potential buyers. For procurers, the

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challenge is assessing the available technologies and choosing which ones are most relevant for their needs. Doing so requires sensible allocation of resources and sourcing the correct solutions for the right requirements.

Into the Future After long term commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq, military commanders might have been forgiven for thinking that the demands on our armed forces might reduce. However, the world is becoming increasingly complex with a diverse range of. Our armed forces need to evolve as the technological capacity of those countries which pose a potential threat increases. As tight as budgets might be, continued investment is crucial into next generation systems for the military. In the final two articles of this report we’ll look at some of the most cutting edge advances in technology currently taking place around the world.


SPECIAL REPORT: ADVANCES IN RPG PROTECTION TECHNOLOGY

The Future of RPG Protection

Q–Net™

RPG Defeat Net

Jo Roth, Staff Writer

RPGs present a major and continuing threat in the field. To cope with this threat, defense agencies around the world are investing in the next generation of protection systems.

While RPGs have developed their capacity, defense systems have been left behind. With the threat of terrorism growing and with RPGs freely available on the black market, considerable sums of money are being invested in developing a new and improved generation of anti RPG systems.

The Challenge Rocket propelled grenades are simple, but deadly. They comprise a shaped charge which aims a blast directly ahead, forcing a metal spike through the armor plating of a military vehicle. They first became common in the Second World War with hand held bazookas to take out tanks but their use really took off in the sixties and seventies, when Soviet designed RPGs, which could be carried in a suitcase, proved devastatingly effective against armored vehicles. Since then, RPGs have developed and become more effective, but the defensive technologies ranged against them have changed little. The big problem is that the threat from RPGs is so difficult to defend against. Once the missile is on its way, there is little that can be done to stop it. Most traditional protection works in the way of all armor – by attempting to reduce the damage done, rather than eliminating the threat entirely. The problem has become even more urgent with RPGs increasingly being used against soft skinned and lightly armored military vehicles. However, a range of new developments is in place focusing both on active and passive forms of protection. These use innovative techniques to reduce or eliminate the damage done.

Explosive Armor After Israeli armored units suffered widespread damage from the Russian made RP7 during the Yom Kippur War, they began developing

explosive armor as a counter measure. Although this may sound counterintuitive, it is significantly more effective than basic metal plating. It consists of a small piece of plastic explosive sandwiched between the outer plates. When a warhead hits this it explodes, forcing the plating apart and destroying the warhead’s spike. With luck, this will reduce the warhead’s penetrating power as forces its way into the under armor. This has a problem, though. The explosive bricks can fly off and injure anyone standing nearby – whether that’s local civilians or other infantry. More modern versions of the original system, therefore, concentrate on limiting the number of flying fragments, and reducing the threat to people nearby. However, even these have the drawback that, once used, the vehicle is left exposed to another attack.

Non-Explosives A less destructive alternative is seen with nonexplosive options. The European Defence Agency is conducting research into the development of electronic plating armor. This consists of two conductive electric plates separated by an empty space. When a missile penetrates the plates, the circuit closes, discharging a surge of electrical power into the warhead which the EDA says will significantly reduce its lethality.10 In a 2010 report to the EDA, the contractor reported that the system had a number of key benefits over traditional protection systems including reduced weight, strength and the ability to continue offering protection even after multiple hits. However, this cannot be used as a standalone unit, but in conjunction with base armor. Although test results have so far been promising, the system is not yet ready for deployment and will require much more research and development.

Proven protection for your most important assets.

www.qinetiq-na.com/QNet/

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SPECIAL REPORT: ADVANCES IN RPG PROTECTION TECHNOLOGY

The marketplace is extremely crowded and competitive, with contractors and defense agencies working hard to develop the next generation of technologies Q-NET CAN BE USED OVER WINDOWS AND WINDSHIELDS.

Passive Net Protection Systems Some of the more effective systems currently available involve solutions which, at first glance, would seem to be unable to offer adequate protection against an explosive missile. Constrictor nets can be draped over vehicles and work to stop the warhead before it impacts and, at the same time, deactivating the warhead. There are many systems available, but one of the most effective is the Qnet developed by QinetiQ in North America and DARPA. This consists of a net which effectively catches the incoming missile in metallic nodes connecting the mesh. The netting is wide enough apart so that soldiers can see through it while driving and strong enough to ensure rounds cannot simply rip through the protection. This system was first used in Afghanistan in 2010. Soldiers were initially skeptical about the effectiveness of the protection, but it quickly proved itself in the field. The website www.army-guide.com reports that, on September 19th, a vehicle protected by the Q-net was ambushed by militants who fired a volley of RPG rounds from within 100 meters. After the dust had settled, the vehicle was found to have been hit by three rounds, none of which had penetrated. Instead they had detonated at the net. A soldier is quoted at the time as saying “all of the soldiers in those vehicles

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which were hit by RPGs are alive today and still in the fight.”11 As well as being highly effective against incoming missiles, Q-net also has the advantage of being approximately 50% to 60% lighter than most bar armor systems. This means it can be quickly repaired in the field, reducing repair cost and downtime during which vehicles are out of the fight. The system is continuing to develop. In 2012 QinetiQ unveiled its first update – the Qnet II. This brings in a number of improvements over the original design including an improved effectiveness against missiles, lighter weight and a hook and loop installation method which enables it to be folded away during missions when required. In this article we’ve just outlined some of the many developments taking place. The marketplace is extremely crowded and competitive, with contractors and defense agencies working hard to develop the next generation of technologies. For those militaries considering adopting any of these products there is a major challenge in assessing which option is best for their requirements. This is made more difficult by ambiguous testing systems and a lack of in-field experience for some of the newest solutions. In the final article in this Report, we’ll examine in closer detail the difficulty of choosing the correct system.


SPECIAL REPORT: ADVANCES IN RPG PROTECTION TECHNOLOGY

Assessing the Next Generation of RPG Protection

Protecting your most important assets.

Tom Cropper, Editor

The next generation of RPG protection is here, but is it any good? This is the question facing military buyers as they decide how to better protect troops now and in the future.

Q–Net A

S CASUALTIES from RPGs mounted during the Iraq and Afghan campaigns, commanders on the ground urgently called for better protection. However, a combination of slow decision-making, poor product evaluation and tight budgets meant many of these calls went unheeded. The problem was that, while there are a number of anti RPG systems available, better education is required among those charged with doing the buying.

A Busy Market The race to deliver the best RPG protection system means any procurer has plenty of options to choose from. Here’s a quick summary of the types of products available. •M  etal bar plating: Protects military vehicles against debris, absorbing the warhead and minimizing damage to the vehicle itself and personnel inside. This is heavy and cumbersome but new developments have made it lighter and more effective. •E  xplosive plating: Explosive charges in the outer plating attempt to destroy incoming warheads. The downside is that shrapnel represents a risk to people nearby and it cannot withstand multiple attacks. •C  onstrictor nets: Protective netting attempts to catch and crush the incoming warhead reducing the damage done. Some products can reduce visibility in a vehicle, but tests on the most advanced technologies have been more promising. •A  ctive counter measures: Hi tech countermeasures fire missiles at the incoming round destroying the warhead just before it reaches the skin of the vehicle. Add to these, future developments such as electrical armor, and there are many different

options for protection. The question is: which of these is the right one?

Assessment Assessing the value of new products is not always straightforward and there are plenty of examples where muddled thinking and poor choices led to delays in the provision of new products, additional costs, and the purchase of the wrong solutions. In 2009, the US Army scrapped its muchvaunted Future Combat Systems program. This was an ambitious scheme intended to develop not just a single new system, but an entire brigade of developments which would be designed to cope with the future requirements of modern warfare. So what went wrong? A report commissioned to perform after-action analysis of the program identified a number of problems including the assessment of new and sophisticated technology. Back in 2007, media reports had criticized the FCS for over- spending and developing new and advanced systems, when others already existed. A key example was the use of active RPG protection systems, which were in urgent demand in Iraq. The military initially planned to buy the Israeli made Trophy system, which literally aimed to shoot missiles out of the air. Tests were successful, but before the acquisition was made the Pentagon blocked the procurement in favor of a system being developed by one of its preferred contractors.12 A report on NBC criticized the selection and assessment process for FCS as effectively paying “weapons manufacturers to tell the Army which weapons systems to buy.” By bringing in defense contractors and making them part of the selection process, the Pentagon was creating a

RPG Defeat Net

• Durable • Low Cost • Adaptable • Life Saving

www.qinetiq-na.com/QNet/

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SPECIAL REPORT: ADVANCES IN RPG PROTECTION TECHNOLOGY

A report commissioned

products which have already been brought to market and can already demonstrate practical and real-world success stories have a significant advantage in the marketplace.

to perform after-action analysis of the program

Efficiencies

identified a number of problems including the assessment of new and sophisticated technology

Q-NET HAS BEEN DEPLOYED ON OVER 13,000 VEHICLES

crucial conflict of interest which directly harmed the delivery of new protection equipment in the field. In short, they were overlooking a ‘good’ system which was available immediately in favor of a ‘perfect’ system which may be available in the future. The entire saga highlights one of the crucial problems the defense industry faces – poor assessment criteria. A lack of internationally recognized testing and assessment processes makes it difficult for those charged with s electing new systems to evaluate accurately their potential. Variations in local regulations and testing procedures of individual contractors reduce the reliability of performance checks. For example, manufacturers often test systems by firing from distance, which is more likely to deliver a favorable result. In reality, though, RPGs are more often fired from close range, which means real life results will fail to match tests. When considering competing systems, therefore, procurers need to understand as much as possible about the way the systems were tested, so that they can make their own assessment about how they will perform. Equally, independent testing by the military enables them to test their systems according to their own criteria and in conditions they control. In the long term, though, a more universal and accessible form of testing can make evaluation much simpler. In the absence of such uniform testing, the only sure fire way to assess the performance of a system is to look at how it has performed in the field. This means that those

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The primary responsibility of military commanders is to protect the lives of troops. However, there is also an additional question of which system will deliver the best operational efficiency, and this is one area in which many fall short. Metal plating and explosive armor may offer good physical stopping power, but they are vulnerable to multiple attacks and can lead to significant downtime. Once explosives have been detonated, the affected area will be vulnerable to further attacks. When plating is damaged it will take considerable time to repair. Shrapnel from armor plating can also be an additional safety concern in the event of an RPG strike. Netting, on the other hand can be repaired quickly in the field and swiftly installed with minimum effort. It means a vehicle can quickly be up and running after an attack, getting personnel back into the fight. In an environment in which finances are tight, the cost of these systems also represents a real issue. Systems such as Trophy and the US version, Iron Curtain, which shoot missiles out of the air, represent the cutting edge of where technology is at the moment. However, that technology comes at a price. Equally, the more sophisticated and complex a system is, the more prone to operational failure it may be. Even the best active protection system will still require passive protection such as constrictor nets as back up. Buyers, therefore, have a difficult balancing act to consider. They must identify the system which will deliver the optimum performance, understand how testing is carried out and consider how it will be used in the field. Although choice is something most buyers would surely welcome, having too many different solutions available represents a challenge in itself. As such, buyers can benefit from education about the range of anti RPG systems available.


SPECIAL REPORT: ADVANCES IN RPG PROTECTION TECHNOLOGY

References:

A true story about RPGS and the reality of the battlefield: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/02/rpgs-lies-battlefield-afghanistan

2

NATO Defence Spending Falls: http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/world-31619553

3

Military at war with David Cameron: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/military-war-david-cameron-top-5340023

1

Obama to Cameron: maintain defence spending or weaken NATO: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/barackobama/11403519/Obama-to-Cameron-maintain-UK-defence-spending-or-weaken-Nato.html

4

5

Top general attacks UK spending cuts: http://rt.com/uk/236753-us-army-uk-defence/

Pentagon Spending Cuts Would Redefine Military: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/02/24/pentagons-massive-budget-cuts-would-redefine-the-us-military

6

Reckless cuts to military spending leaves US vulnerable: http://observer.com/2015/01/reckless-cuts-to-us-military-spending-leaving-america-vulnerable/

7

China’s military budget increasing by 10%: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/05/world/asia/chinas-military-budget-increasing-10-for-2015-official-says.html?_r=0

8

European Army plans to protect content from Russia and ISIS: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/could-joint-european-army-protect-nato-russia-isis-n322841

9

10

Electric Armour for Armoured Vehicles: https://www.eda.europa.eu/our-work/projects-search/electric-armour-for-armoured-vehicles---elav

11

Qnet: http://www.army-guide.com/eng/product5134.html

12

Experts contradict Pentagon:

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/18356061/ns/nbc_nightly_news_with_brian_williams-nbc_news_investigates/t/experts-contradict-pentagon-anti-rpg-tests/#.VQg0A46sVXM

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Defence Industry Reports – ‘Advances in RPG Protection Technology’ – Qinetiq  

Defence Industry – Special Report on Advances in RPG Protection Technology

Defence Industry Reports – ‘Advances in RPG Protection Technology’ – Qinetiq  

Defence Industry – Special Report on Advances in RPG Protection Technology