Armor: Zaslon To The Rescue

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April 3, 2018: In February 2018 Turkey arranged to manufacture a Ukrainian APS (Active Protection System) for over a hundred of its tanks. The Ukrainian Zaslon-L APS is somewhat unique in that it is designed to protect structures as well as vehicles from guided missiles. Zaslon-L consists of three different modules. There is one radar module, one guidance system module and multiple CMMs (countermeasures modules). The CMMs are basically a special type of ERA (explosive reactive armor) designed for one time use and able quickly (a fraction of a second) to throw out a cloud of fragments that will destroy any incoming missiles. The downside of Zaslon is that cloud of high speed fragments can kill or injure nearby troops or civilians. Moreover each CMM, while reloadable, is only good for two shots. Nevertheless, Zaslon has proved it works and that is what counts. That plus the speed with which the Ukrainians can agree to and implement deals like this.

The Turkish deal was hastily arranged in response to numerous (over a dozen) Turkish tanks losses, mostly from ATGMs (anti-tank guided missiles) during recent operations in northwest Syria. Turkey arranged for a Turkish firm to obtain a manufacturing license to build the Zaslon-L APS for at least a hundred (and many more if successful) of its Leopard 2 and M60 tank. Zaslon is more modular that most APS, which tend to consist of a radar to detect incoming missiles and small rockets to rush out and disable the incoming threat. Zaslon is different and can be quickly adapted, because of its modular design, to be installed on different tanks and armored vehicles. Thus a Zaslon APS weighs between 500 and 1,000 kg (depending on the type of vehicle it is installed on). Zaslon has been available since 2010 and has worked in combat with Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. It was that combat experience that convinced the Turks to go with Zaslon. That and the fact that Ukraine, since its independence was restored in 1991, has depended on developing and selling (to just about anyone) fairly modern and usually quite effective military technology.

The Turkish firm that is to manufacture Zazlon had been working on its own APS but had not gotten it to work yet. The Turks were unable to obtain APS from the other two major manufacturers (Israel and Russia) because there are diplomatic problems with those two. Another potential problem is that such technology transfers to Turkish manufacturers sometimes run into problems. Recent victims of this have been Israel (which has ceased doing business with the Turks) and South Korea (which considers the problems an expensive form of education). These is still a lot of corruption in Turkey and for military manufacturers this often means promising more than you can deliver. This is not unique, India has similar problems and so do, to a certain extent, all defense manufacturers.

 


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