HENSOLDT’s Multifunctional Self Protection System (MUSS) has provided protection to frontline vehicle crews for several years now, and remains one of the only mature and proven soft-kill systems available on the market. But HENSOLDT is not standing still and is advancing with plans that will see MUSS optimised even further: Welcome to MUSS 2.0.
Ever since the invention of the first armoured vehicle for the battlefield, there have been efforts by opposing forces to employ weapons that can defeat them. This game of cat and mouse continues into the 21st century, and as armoured vehicles become more advanced, so too does the weaponry that can be used against them.
This is especially true when we look at anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), which have been used for decades on the battlefield with devastating effect.
Despite the “tank” in the name, ATGMs are used against all kinds of armoured vehicles. In recent conflicts, wire-guided ATGMs have once again proven as a key weapon for destroying armoured capabilities and denying forces the freedom to roam across the battlefield and achieve key tactical objectives.
More and more ATGMs are also finding their ways into the hands of asymmetric forces, which can blunt the capabilities of more advanced militaries with tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.
Soft-kill active protection
The traditional answer to the ATGM threat has been to add more armour to a vehicle, usually in the form of thick steel plates or even explosive reactive armour. Unfortunately, this affects the two other important aspects of armoured vehicle design: mobility and firepower.
Adding heavy armour means that a vehicle lacks speed and often cannot traverse rough terrain in an effective way, while it may also restrict how much ammunition it can carry or the size of the weapon system. This is clearly not a favourable situation for forces that operate in challenging conditions and need to outgun the enemy during engagements.
This was the challenge that HENSOLDT addressed with MUSS.
“The idea of MUSS is to have low size, weight and power so it does not impact the other characteristics of the vehicle.”
Sales Director Self-Protection Products at HENSOLDT
The MUSS soft-kill active protection system (APS) – called as such because it does not shoot at the incoming threats like “hard-kill” systems – was designed to rapidly detect an incoming missile and deploy laser-based jamming and smoke-based smart dispensers to neutralise the threat.
The core element of MUSS is the advanced sensors installed around the vehicle that can detect the radiation of a missile plume when it has been fired several kilometres away, as well as the enemy laser that is guiding the missile itself. This information from the MUSS Sensor Heads (MSHs) is then rapidly processed in a central computer (MUSS Central Electronics), alerting the crew on the direction of the threat and to prepare the correct countermeasure response.
Jamming of the missile launcher (which sends information to the missile itself) is achieved via the MUSS Jammer Head (MJH), which is placed high on the vehicle to ensure full 360-degree coverage.
MUSS can trace its roots back to the mid-2000s when an initial development contract was signed, and it has been on a successful development journey ever since. This has culminated in its full integration into the architecture of the German Army’s newest tracked IFV, the Puma. All MUSS units have now been delivered for the Army’s first batch of Puma vehicles.
“The Puma is the latest in terms of IFV technology and this is a great platform for us to be on,” said Friedlander. MUSS has also been integrated onto other platforms including the British Army’s Challenger 2 main battle tank as part of successful development trials of soft-kill systems by the UK Ministry of Defence and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.
The enemy never stands still and is always coming up with ways to counter new technologies. That’s why HENSOLDT always wants to stay one step ahead. With this in mind we are now looking towards the second-generation of MUSS, which will add additional capabilities and more powerful electronics to the system.
As well as the laser jamming that exists in the current system, HENSOLDT is exploring the effects of laser dazzling to counter enemy missiles, especially for line-of-sight beam-riding missiles that use a laser to guide them onto a target. There is also development work ongoing to ensure that the MSHs can detect and alert the crew when a beam-riding laser guidance system is pointing towards the vehicle. They will also be able to detect second-generation laser rangefinders. There is also work to include new applications such as Hostile Fire Indication (HFI).
“The new sensors will be able to detect more threats and provide much more information to the system,” said Friedlander.
MUSS 2.0 will utilise an open architecture approach – compliant with the NATO Generic Vehicle Architecture – that will allow the utilisation of additional sensors for tracking and confirmation, including optical cameras and radar systems, and the use of existing electronics such as central computers.
The addition of new sensors and increased computer processing will help reduce false alarms for vehicle crews and there is also the potential to integrate with hard-kill systems so that the full spectrum of threats, including high explosive (HE) warheads, are addressed.
“The system will be configurable based on the mission and the threats you will face. We are giving more flexibility to the end user.”
Dr Oliver Rudow
Head of Self-Protection Ground
As part of the highly networked future battlefield, MUSS 2.0 will also become another important information node on the battlefield for units to identify threats via command and control (C2) and battle management systems (BMS). Once a threat has been detected by MUSS, the information will be communicated across units and to upper echelons for greater battlespace awareness and decision making.
Another key element of MUSS 2.0 will be to ensure that the system is highly optimised for size, weight and power. One example of this will be a reduced size and weight for the MJH, which sits atop the vehicle, making it even lighter than the existing 170kg for the current MUSS. This opens up opportunities for MUSS to be integrated on a wide range of vehicles, not just larger tracked types.
HENSOLDT is not stopping at MUSS 2.0 and there is constant horizon scanning and development work to explore what comes next for the future generations of MUSS. While the threat constantly changes, HENSOLDT remains at the forefront of soft-kill APS technologies and is evolving its offerings to ensure the safety of vehicle crews from the threat of anti-tank missiles.