MUSS – The Invisible Shield of the Tank

HENSOLDT group core competence has been to recognise a wide range of threats and to provide practical and optimal solutions to improve the safety and operational effectiveness of military platforms. HENSOLDT’s MUSS (Multi-functional Self-protection System) has been the endeavour in the same direction - protecting armoured vehicle while maintaining manoeuvrability with no collateral damages.

Issue: 2-3 / 2020
MUSS fitted to IFV PUMA

The Battle Tank, or the Armoured Fighting Vehicle, ever since it made its first appearance on the Battlefield of Somme in 1916, has retained its pre-eminent position as the primary means to carry the battle to the enemy and deliver the decisive edge in a land based engagement between Armed Forces. The appearance of tanks led to development of anti-tank munitions. In the early stages of this race, the only protection against new munitions was to enhance armor thickness which increased the weight and decreased the mobility of the AFV. This method was not practically effective against defeating Munitions like High-explosive Anti-tank (HEAT) rounds, or Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs). This led to next level of evolution of passive protection viz use of better performing, lighter alternatives to Steel, like Composites and the deployment of ‘add on’ armour as spaced armour, explosive reactive armour

In recent years, the Battle field saw the advent of a large variety of anti-tank guided missiles and unguided rockets rapidly evolving from simple First Generation Wire Guided Missiles to TOW, to Beam Riding to the 3rd generation fire-and-forget, guided, top-attack modern missiles and TOW missiles that were capable of defeating passive and add on armour & destroy their target with tandem war-heads. This proliferation of Anti-tank Guided Missile (ATGM) capable of being launched from a variety of Platforms/Configurations soon outstripped threats posed to a tank from conventional tank fired projectiles and munitions. This necessitated a paradigm shift in AFV protection and spurred development of new technologies within the given weight limitations to counter them known as Active Protection Systems (APS). These systems utilise electronic sensors to detect & track incoming direct-fire ATGMs and HEAT munitions & Laser Threats, and defeat them by launching countermeasures to deflect/destroy them. APS thus changed the calculus, by enhancing AFV protection without significantly impacting vehicle weight.

HENSOLDT group core competence has been to recognise a wide range of threats and to provide practical and optimal solutions to improve the safety and operational effectiveness of military platforms. Evolution of HENSOLDT’s MUSS (Multi-functional Self-protection System) has been the endeavour in the same direction. MUSS is the most advanced in-service, cost effective and practical solution to improve the survivability of Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) or Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) platforms.

Col. Ravin Kumar, a former-Tank man of Indian Army, now Director Marketing & Business Development, Hensoldt Private Limited, had an interesting conversation with Dr Oliver Rudow, Head of Ground Protection Systems and Mr. Franck Friedlander, Sales Director at HENSOLDT in Germany about this fascinating product. Below are some excerpts:

What are the key criteria that influence the choice of customers worldwide in selecting Active Protection Systems (APS ) for AFV/ICV?

While the choice of APS largely depends on experience and respective military doctrine, however some key drivers that influence the decisions are:

  • The system should not degrade/adversely impact AFV/IFV operational role and capabilities and provide 360 degree coverage to cater for all angles of arrival of threats including top attack munitions.
  • Capable of detection, tracking and neutralisation of multiple threats (ATGMs of all types, CE & KE projectiles) that the AFV/IFV is likely to encounter in the battle field simultaneously and deploy appropriate countermeasures.
  • No resultant collateral damage by deployment of countermeasures to crew/other dismounted personnel/softskinned vehicles in vicinity/optical & Optronics devices and other soft points of the AFV/IFV.
  • The System should have minimum Size, Weight & Power (SWaP) specifications. External components should not enlarge vehicle profile, block/impede access or functioning of any existing hatches/ ports/Observation devices and Armament. Internal Components should not displace existing combat loads and systems and with no additional environmental/EMI impact.
  • Cost effectiveness is a key driver. Initial and through life costs should be optimised.
  • The APS should be modular with open architecture and future ready-to-integrate additional sensors and counter measures as per requirements for a given platform limitations/threat perception and levels of protection required.

Could you describe HENSOLDT MUSS® APS System which is already on the German Army’s PUMA IFV and what are its key differentiators?

MUSS® is a Passive Detection (PD) with a Soft Kill (SK) effector based Active Protection System (APS), delivering a KEY protection layer against Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM) and Laser (guided) Threats (LT).

The system mainly comprises two passive sensors, a Missile Warner (MW) and a Laser Warner (LW), with two countermeasures – a 360 degree rotatable IR Jammer (IRJ) and Directable Smoke Dispenser (DSD). The System is modular, flexible, easy to install and a cost effective solution for the customer. The modular system architecture makes it easy to customise the configuration for specific vehicle ergonomics and operational requirements by combining selected sub-systems to deliver a desired effect.

MUSS is an In-Service system fitted on the SPz PUMA, the most modern IFV of the Bundeswehr Armoured Infantry Brigades. MUSS was ‘designed’ into the protection solution of the SPz PUMA.

The Key product differentiators include:

  • Modular and scalable system for different vehicle (wheeled and tracked armoured vehicles) types and operational requirements for overall protection.
  • Highly cost-effective solution.
  • Significant SWaP advantages over APS using Hard Kill effectors.
  • Undetectable and Jamming proof.
  • No Collateral Damage to host Platform or Local Area.
  • Easy to integrate, no strong provisions needed. Does not significantly alter/degrade platform.
  • Complimentary to traditional Hard Kill APS. HK APS protection are only against certain threats and not against all RPGs.
  • Product Roadmap includes Interface to Hard Kill Effector, Laser Jamming & Dazzling, Tracking & Confirmation Sensor, Integration into Surveillance and C2 system and Platform Interoperability.

What are key differences between Hard Kill (HK) and Soft Kill (SK) solution? And what are the global trends in customer preferences that you see?

APS can be broadly classified into “Soft Kill” systems, intended to prevent the oncoming threat from accurately targeting the vehicle whereas “Hard Kill” systems are designed to use direct explosive force to destroy/deflect/degrade incoming projectiles. The Key differentiators between the two being, nature of sensors used to detect and track threats - Passive versus Active and the type of counter- measures deployed to neutralise the threat. Both systems defeat the threat before impact, SK by EO Jammer (or Laser Dazzle) or with obscuration and a HK system by deploying counter kinetic effect using Multiple Explosively Formed Projectiles (MEFPs) to destroy/deflect/degrade any threat.

Whilst today some Armies have tested and in some cases, have even fitted Hard Kill Systems as an interim solution, major challenges with technological readiness & maturity of HK systems, significant integration constraints and operational restrictions coupled with usage issues are causing them to review this choice! The experience of users with Hard Kill solution seems to be triggering interest in adopting an evolutionary modular approach starting with a baseline of Soft Kill systems and incrementally building capabilities on it.

I.e. the German Army recognised the advantages of a layered approach protection. Against ATGMs, where the armour is not sufficient, they use MUSS. Accordingly, the PUMA IFV is designed on a 2-step approach:

  • with a level A protection armour, which can protect from ballistic threats, which weighs 31,45 tons and can be air-transported in the Airbus A400M, MUSS fitted.
  • with a level C enhanced protection armour, which can protect against RPGs and which weighs around 43 tons, MUSS also fitted.

Global armed forces are now realising the need to have scalable and modular solution which has the potential to be configured as per the limitations or operational imperatives of the platform.

Could you please elaborate your views on the Indian market? What are your plans to introduce MUSS to Indian Customers?

The Indian market, with its large inventory of Tanks and ICVs as well as its future platform development programs offers huge potential. We are also cognizant about India’s uncompromising focus on Military self-reliance through “Make in India” policy.

It is important to reiterate the fact that MUSS system is already in-service on ~350 SPz PUMA, which is the most modern IFV of the German Army with its existing capabilities to defeat a wide range of ATGMs and low SWaP profile. The MUSS Product roadmap envisages adding Hard Kill capability by Interfacing Active Tracking & Confirmation Sensors, kinetic effectors against KE/CE projectiles, Laser Jamming & Dazzling, Integration into Surveillance and C2 system and Platform Interoperability and achieving Fleet level protection.

Therefore our approach would be to offer complete Active Protection Systems (APS) framework to Indian customers wherein Indian capabilities could be leveraged by means of Joint development, buildto- print and/or build-to-specs to realise the indigenous APS solution in the most practical and incremental way.

MUSS with its inherent modularity of design, multi-pronged evolutionary approach involving technology and capability enhancement across the system in all components – sensors and effectors, feasibility of integration of parallel systems or add on sensors and effectors in its architecture fits in well with this approach.