Despite shrinking its fleet of CV9035NL infantry combat vehicles, the Netherlands is considering installing the Iron Fist active protection system on the 149 platforms still in service in the Royal Dutch Army. The contract, won by BAE Systems, would not be remarkable if it were not that “with Iron Fist, the Netherlands is expected to become the first NATO country with an Active Protection System of its kind on combat vehicles,” said Hans de Goeij, project manager at the Netherlands Defence Materiel Organisation, Ministry of Defence.
According to the terms of the contract, BAE Systems will in 2017 carry out a series of validation tests on the Iron Fist system, developed by Israeli supplier IMI Systems. “During this test phase we will pre-qualify the active system against our threat specification, and together with our partners analyze system safety and prepare for its integration onto our CV9035NL vehicles,” said de Goei. This test phase will continue until 2018 at which time the Dutch Defence Ministry will make a decision as to the next steps to take.
Iron Fist is a Hard Kill type of protection system. Contrary to reactive armour, this one is equipped with infrared sensors and a radar that can intercept incoming rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles, and other threats 360° around the vehicle. In case of a perceived threat, these sensors alert the modules which automatically launch a winged projectile to explode close to the threat, destroying it whist avoiding collateral damage thanks to a munition whose envelope is composed of combustible materiels. A light version of Iron Fist was chosen in June 2016 by the US ground forces to protect its light and medium troop transport vehicles.
If the integration of Iron Fist is a first on the Old Contient, Europe’s defence industry is not novice in the field. Thales, for example, started work in 2008 on a demonstrator named Shark (Système HARd Kill) which has been tested by the DGA French procurement agency on the VAB, whilst Germany’s Rheinmetall has developed the AMAP-ADS, which has a reaction time of 560 microseconds and a range of a dozen or so metres.