Airbags ‘Special Magic’ To Defeat RPGs

Airbags ‘Special Magic’ To Defeat RPGs

At the Army’s annual convention and massive weapons show last month here in Washington, DC, I came across an interesting rocket propelled grenade (RPG) defensive system, readily configurable to Humvees and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles. The Tactical RPG Airbag Protection System, called TRAPS, does pretty much what the name says, it deploys an airbag around a vehicle to defeat RPG warheads, according to manufacturer Textron.

The ever-growing MRAP family of vehicles are designed to protect their occupants from IED blasts with their v-shaped hulls and elevated crew compartment. The vehicles are not so well designed to handle the “ambush” part of their name, particularly if that ambush includes RPGs. Your run –of-the-mill RPG, say, the ubiquitous RPG-7, can easily penetrate more than a foot of rolled homogenous steel. Needless to say, neither the MRAPs nor the Humvees carry anything approaching that much armor.

The field expedient in Iraq and Afghanistan has been to weld steel cages onto high-value MRAP targets, such as the route clearing Buffalo. The cage provides stand-off armor protection, causing the RPG warhead to detonate prematurely and thus lose its blast and armor penetrating effect. Problem is, the steel cages are heavy and make the vehicles unwieldy and difficult to maneuver down narrow city streets.

That’s where TRAPS could come in handy. It uses radar to detect an incoming RPG and then deploys airbags on the targeted side or aspect of the vehicle. Using a bit of what Textron’s Stephen Greene called “special magic,” when the RPG warhead hits the airbag, its actually neutralized and doesn’t explode. The rocket still hits the vehicle, but the warhead is essentially inert. That feature avoids another downside of the steel cages that detonate the RPG warhead, causing all sorts of potential shrapnel and blast danger to any dismounted infantry and civilians nearby.

TRAPS is undergoing OSD sponsored tests out in Socorro, New Mexico. Textron says the tests have so far been successful and the airbags defeated numerous live RPGs fired at different angles from both short and long ranges. Further tests will take place in the next few months.

The TRAPS test vehicle was a Humvee, but Greene said TRAPS can be put on the Abrams tank, the Bradley and the Stryker, as well as MRAPs and Humvees. Textron is also in discussions with all three industry teams competing for DoD’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program; at the Army convention, AM General’s JLTV prototype had TRAPS on it.

The IED remains the weapon of choice for global irregular warriors, including the various groups in Afghanistan. Of course that could change. The cross-border arms market with Pakistan is nowhere near as free flowing as it was during the Soviet occupation, but commanders in Afghanistan have noticed an uptick in RPGs in Taliban hands in recent months. Infantry fights still dominate there and the Taliban use RPGs as a form of portable “artillery.” This Lester Grau article from a 1998 edition of Infantry magazine contains a ton of interesting RPG information.

It’s always good to see industry trying to come up with innovative ways to protect troops from the weapons actually used by irregular fighters on today’s battlefields. We’ll keep you updated on the progress of TRAPS and other active-protection systems we come across.

Photo: VOA News

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I attended an AUSA conference last year and got to speak with one of the Textron engineers working on TRAPS and we got into discussing TRAPS for a Blackhawk down scenario. I was happy to hear him say that they were working on something for helos. It’s about time we counter RPG’s aimed not just at ground vehicles, but helos too!

What a neat idea. Hopefully they could have multiple airbags on the sides of a vehicle — one would deflate and be discarded after use. Clearing the way for one mounted beside it to be used on the way back to base. Maybe once you were in the clear — dismounted folks could replace them on the outside. Sort of like putting up new Claymore mines.

So pretty much ERA but with airbags that pre-deploy when an RPG is detected and about to hit.

Interesting idea but it won’t work against newer RPGs. We still need to continue development on other “hard-kill” active defense systems.

Need one for choppers

I hope it won’t deploy when the radar detects every rock thrown.

Sweet! RPG’s just bounce off the little airbag forcefield around your vehicle!

Just being a little speculative, and for a simple example of what I am trying to say, I will use 8 as an arbitrary figure:
If this TARPS system can defeat 6 out of the 8 known weapons, deploy it now and keep working on it. Up grade it as new abilities are developed, but Deploy It Now Regardless! Six is just so much more better defense than NONE!

True but we need to continue development of other systems. I believe we should have deployed the Isreali Trophy system years ago now while continuing development of our own active defense systems.

Good to see that people out there are thinking about cheaper and different ways to protect soldiers and vehicles. It would be cool to see on in action.

Hello Folks, thought I would chime in and ask if anybody saw my patented airbag system over on defensetech​.org ? I’ve been working on a methodology to do alot more than stopping rpgs, as in what about spall, vampir 29’s two stage, and the like. Airbags in and of themselves, if produced correctly can mitigate what causes 48% of the injuries due to over/under pressures. Some troopers have “had their bell rung” and get back in the mix a few days later not realizing there has been permanent damage done. I can’t give all the details on how it all works, but if you’d like to see the animation, come on over and check out http://​www​.survivalconsultants​.com then on the left side menu click “articles” and look for “airbag armor.” I was doing this long before the folks claiming this and there is plenty of proof.
Anyways, thanks for allowing the shout out dodbuzz. See ya at SCI’s website.
Best, David Woroner, CEO
Survival Consultants International

so you just fire a fusilade of RPG’s, the bag stops the first one of two, the rest punch through. Good idea as long as only one is fired. RPG’s are cheap and the shooters love to get killed.

Firing a fusilade of RPGs may not be as easy as you think. At the end of WWII, the Germans had enough Panzerfaust to kill every allied tank and armored vehicle something like 10 times over. Actually killing the vehicles proved somewhat more difficult. The same was true in 1973, the gulf, and other conflicts. The more RPG gunners you need to coordinate their fire, the less likely they are to fire together or survive long enough to fire at all. No defense is perfect of course, and you can destroy every vehicle. But if you have a relatively inexpensive way to protect from one or two RPGs, you have a much better chance to survive and eliminate the threat through maneuver and fire. Think about it, wouldn’t 10 or so RPG gunners all together make a good hellfire target?

In addition to this technology (airbag) maybe its a good idea to borrow one (RPG) from Afghan or Iraqi army and study the RPG test it with the airbag and other ways to make our soldiers and Humvees 100% safe

It detects what kinda threat it is and deploys…part of that “Special Magic”

From SCI: Apparently, folks feel “iffy”. That is a commonality we face on a fairly repetitive basis. We use a simple qoute of Stephen Hawkings & Carl Sagan; “Extraoridinary Claims Require Extraordinary Proof.” SCI commends Textron . The biggest difference between the SCI system and Textron’s is their use of Radar. SCI’s system utilizes “Light Spectrum Data” to determine threats and prevent false positive. SCI cataloged Light Signature Data over a (9) nine years period. Radar has to be “propogated out from target vehicle, encounter threats, return signal to targetand finally be analyzed in some manner.“SCI’s LSD, does and will outperform in faster times and deny false positives in much clearer, concise & rapid manner. SCI has been in business since 2005 and patent pend/or/pat. multiple life saving systems. SCI is to disclose new systems in the near future. SCI is interested in partnering with other entities to further enhance life saving systems, and enhance survivability in the real world. Best, SCI

Airbag is a great whiz bang tech idea but why wouldn’t a simple but strong netting around vehicle do same thing? Graphene netting would be strong enough to absorb velocity but would give enough to keep warhead from detonating.
KISS reasoning is always better, lets not make it harder than it has to be.


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