Arena (countermeasure)

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Arena on T-80UM-1 at Omsk circa 1998. Elements of the Arena Active Protection System include ring of explosive panels at lower margin of turret ring and radar on turret roof.
TypeActive protection system
Place of originRussia
Service history
Used byRussia
Production history
DesignerKolomna Engineering Design Bureau (KBM)
Unit costUS$300,000
VariantsArena-E (export)

Arena (Russian: Арена) is an active protection system (APS) developed at Russia's Kolomna-based Engineering Design Bureau for the purpose of protecting armoured fighting vehicles from destruction by light anti-tank weapons, anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM), and flyover top attack missiles.[1] It uses a Doppler radar to detect incoming warheads. Upon detection, a defensive rocket is fired that detonates near the inbound threat, destroying it before it hits the vehicle.

Arena is similar to Drozd, a Soviet active protection system from the late 1970s, which was installed on several T-55s during the Soviet–Afghan War. Drozd was followed by Shtora in the late 1980s, which used an electro-optical dazzlers or expendable so (smoke/IR smoke) to confuse the seeker head or defeat the user. In late 1994 the Russian Army deployed many armoured fighting vehicles to Chechnya, where they were ambushed and suffered heavy casualties. The effectiveness of Chechen rocket-propelled grenades against Russian combat vehicles prompted the Kolomenskoye machine-building design bureau to devise the Arena active protection system in the early and mid-1990s. An export variant, Arena-E, was also developed. The system has been tested on the T-80UM-1, demonstrated at Omsk in 1997.


The Soviet Union developed the first active protection system between 1977 and 1982, named Drozd (Russian: Дрозд).[2][3] This system was designed as an alternative to passive or reactive armour, to defend against enemy anti-tank weapons.[4] The system's development was stimulated in large part by the introduction of new high-explosive anti-tank warheads. Drozd was designed to destroy these warheads before they hit the armour of a vehicle being attacked.[5] It was composed of three main parts: two launcher arrays placed on either side of the gun turret and an auxiliary power unit located to the rear of the turret.[6] The arrays were controlled by two millimeter-wave radar antennae. The system used a 19 kilograms (42 lb), 107 millimeters (4.2 in) cone-shaped fragmentation warhead. Drozd could protect a tank between the elevations of −6 and 20 degrees along the vertical plane, and between 40 and 60 degrees along the horizontal plane.[2][7] Although reported to offer an 80% increase in survival rate during its testing in Afghanistan, the radar was unable to adequately detect threats and the firing of its rockets caused unacceptably high levels of collateral damage.[2] About 250 Drozd systems were manufactured, all of which were installed on T-55s belonging to the Soviet Union's naval infantry.[6]

In the late 1980s, the Soviet Army began development of the Shtora-1 electro-optical jammer.[2] It was first mounted on a T-80U in 1989, and later showcased on a T-72B (renamed T-72BU and later T-90).[8] Shtora-1 is designed to jam incoming anti-tank missiles using a one-kilowatt infrared radiator.[9] In 1995, it was fitted on a Ukrainian T-84. The Shtora-1 system consists of an infra-red radiator interface station, composed of the jammer, modulator and control panel, a number of forward-firing grenade discharges capable of producing a smoke screen, a laser warning receiver and a general control panel.[2] Shtora offers 360 degree all-around protection, between the elevations of −5 and 25 degrees. The system is activated when the laser warning system alerts the tank commander, who responds by pressing a button on his control panel which automatically orients the turret towards the threat. This triggers the grenade launch, creating a smoke screen to reduce the ability of the missile to lock-on the vehicle. The jammers are designed to jam the infra-red seekers on the inbound missiles.[10] According to the manufacturers, Shtora decreases the chances of a tank being hit by an anti-tank missile, such as the Dragon, by a factor of 4–5:1.[11]

The large number of Russia's casualties during the First Chechen War prompted Russia to consider the development of a new active protection system.[12] During the Battle of Grozny, for example, the Russian Army lost between 200 and 250[13] armoured fighting vehicles to Chechen rebels.[14] Vehicles which were knocked-out included main battle tanks such as the T-72 and T-80, and lighter armoured vehicles such as the BMP-2.[15] The majority of tanks deployed to Chechnya were not issued with explosive reactive armour, due to the "lack of time and funds", while some of those that were issued with reactive armour did not have the explosive charge to start the reaction.[16] Some of the most dangerous threats to Russian armour were rocket-propelled grenades fired from buildings in Grozny.[17] As a result of these vulnerabilities, Kolomenskoye developed the Arena active protection system, with the goal of providing Russian armour more reliable protection against these threats.[18]

System details[edit]


The Arena system was primarily designed to defeat threats such as the rocket propelled grenade and the anti-tank missile, including newer anti-tank missiles with longer ranges.[12] The active protection system can protect against missiles fired from both infantry carried rocket launchers and from helicopters, which attack the vehicle directly or by overflying it.[19] Modern rocket propelled grenades can penetrate almost 1 metre (39 in) of steel armour, posing a serious threat to tanks operating in environments of asymmetric warfare. Therefore, increased tank protection requires either an increase in armour thickness and weight, or alternatively the use of an active protection system, like Arena.[20]

The system is designed to defeat light anti-tank weapons, such as this RPG-7.

The system uses a multi-function Doppler radar, which can be turned on and off by the tank commander.[21] In conjunction with radar input, a digital computer scans an arc around the tank for threats, and evaluates which of the tank's 26 quick-action projectiles it will release to intercept the incoming threat.[22] In selecting the projectile to use for defeating the threat, the ballistic computer employs the information processed by the radar, including information such as flight parameters and velocity.[23] On the T-80UM, the computer has a reaction time of 0.05 seconds and protects the tank over a 300-degree arc, everywhere but the rear side of the turret.[11][24][25] On the T-72M1, Arena covers the frontal 260-degrees.[26] Arena ordinarily covers an elevation from -85 degrees to +65 degrees.[27] On the BMP-3M, the Arena-E covers the frontal 275 degrees from an elevation of -5 degrees to +15 degrees.[24] The system engages targets within 50 metres (55 yd) of the vehicle it is defending, and the ammunition detonates at around 1.5 metres (1.6 yd) from the threat.[11] It will engage any threat approaching the tank between the velocities of 70 metres per second (230 ft/s) and 700 metres per second (2,300 ft/s), and can disregard false targets, such as outgoing projectiles, birds and small caliber bullets.[12] If the computer detects that the projectile is heading towards an already discharged panel it can rotate the turret to point an active panel at the threat.[27] Arena works during the day and night, and the lack of electromagnetic interference allows the system to be used by multiple vehicles as a team.[28] The 27-volt system requires approximately one kilowatt of power, and weighs around 1,100 kilograms (2,400 lb).[12] Arena increases a tank's probability of surviving a rocket-propelled grenade by between 1.5–2 times.[12][29]

Shtora was a soft-kill system, designed to passively defeat anti-tank missiles by jamming their guidance systems. By contrast, Arena is a hard-kill system like Drozd, designed to destroy the warhead through the use of munitions before the missile can engage the vehicle being protected.[3]


The modernized Arena-M's manufacturer claims it is able to intercept munitions coming from all aspects, including true top-attack missiles like the Javelin and that it will be installed on Russian T-80 and T-90 tanks.[30][31]

In 2023, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported that Russia would soon equip its T-90M and T-80BVM tanks with Arena-M. The report also said that Russia was also exploring installing the system on T-72B3 and T-72B3M tanks.[32]


Arena evolved from the earlier Shater (Tent) active protection system first fitted to the Obiekt 478M. Arena was first fitted to the Obiekt 219E, a T-80B series experimental tank that later became known as the T80BM1. The existence of this program was revealed in 1992.[33]

The Arena active protection system was first tested at the Kubinka proving grounds in early 1995, successfully defending a Russian tank against an anti-tank guided missile.[34] A Russian T-80UM-1, with Arena, was first demonstrated to the public at Omsk in late 1997.[35] Arena was also mounted on the BMP-3M modernization package, developed by the Kurganmashzavod Joint Stock Company, although the package has received no export orders.[36]

Arena was to be fitted on the Russian Black Eagle which debuted in 1998.[37] As of 2011, Arena had not entered quantity production.[38]


As of 1996, the German–French firm TDA was reported to have been involved in further developing Arena.[27] In 1998, American defense contractor General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) proposed licensing Arena from KBM for sale to Turkey and the United States. For the Turkish Land Forces, GDLS sought to integrate Arena onto the M60-2000 and M1A2 Abrams. For the U.S. Army, GDLS proposed integrating Arena onto the M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams tanks.[39] As of 2000, Russia had agreed to the deal pending U.S. approval.[40]

In 2011, Russia offered India the Arena system for use on the T-72. It is unknown whether India accepted any deliveries of Arena as of 2011.[41]

Arena-E on BMP-3 model, 2008

An export variant, named Arena-E (Арена-Э), is available, costing an estimated $300,000. It weighs about 900 kilograms (2,000 lb).[24] In 2007 South Korea and KBM Design Bureau reached an agreement to fit the Arena-E on the K2 main battle tank. The agreement was worth about US$27.5 million.[38]


  1. ^ Adam Geibel (1 April 1997). Learning From Their Mistakes: Russia's Arena Active Protection System (PDF) (Report). Defense Technical Information Center. Archived (PDF) from the original on 7 April 2023. Retrieved 6 April 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e Meyer, p. 8
  3. ^ a b Kemp, p. 18
  4. ^ Zaloga (2004), p. 24
  5. ^ Hazell, p. 116
  6. ^ a b Zaloga (2004), p. 33
  7. ^ Hazell, p. 118
  8. ^ Zaloga (1993), p. 13
  9. ^ Zaloga (1993), pp. 13, 34–35
  10. ^ Meyer, pp. 8–9
  11. ^ a b c Meyer, p. 9
  12. ^ a b c d e Geibel (1996), p. 10
  13. ^ Russians claim that they lost between 200 and 250 armoured fighting vehicles, out of 2,221 deployed; Warford, p. 18
  14. ^ Rupe, p. 21
  15. ^ Geibel (1995), p. 13
  16. ^ Baryantinsky, pp. 58–62
  17. ^ Warford, p. 19
  18. ^ Baryantinsky, p. 72
  19. ^ KB Mashynostroyeniya, "Arena-E" Archived December 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, accessed 22 December 2008
  20. ^ Hazell, p. 113
  21. ^ Baryantinsky, p. 73
  22. ^ Baryantinsky, pp. 72–73
  23. ^ Baryantinsky, pp. 73–74
  24. ^ a b c Foss 2011, p. 378.
  25. ^ Foss 2011, p. 110.
  26. ^ Foss 2011, p. 112.
  27. ^ a b c Cullen, Tony; Foss, Christopher F. "Threat Warning Systems". Jane's Armour and Artillery Upgrades 1997-98 (10th ed.). Surrey: Jane's Information Group. p. 158. ISBN 0-7106-1543-4.
  28. ^ Baryantinsky, p. 80
  29. ^ Baryantinsky, pp. 82–83
  30. ^ Laskin, Yury (3 November 2021). "Details of ARENA-M APS Disclosed". European Security & Defence. Archived from the original on 5 April 2023. Retrieved 6 April 2023.
  31. ^ "Russian T-90, T-80 main battle tanks to feature new reactive armor, says defense firm". TASS. 5 April 2023. Archived from the original on 5 April 2023. Retrieved 6 April 2023.
  32. ^ Dangwal, Ashish (5 April 2023). "'Blown Away' By UAV & ATGM Attacks, Russia To Arm Its T-90M Tanks With Arena-M Active Protection System". EurAsian Times. Archived from the original on 3 August 2023. Retrieved 3 August 2023.
  33. ^ Zaloga, Steven (2009). T-80 Standard Tank. Great Britain: Osprey Publishing. pp. 26, 38. ISBN 978-1-84603-244-8.
  34. ^ Warford, p. 21
  35. ^ Baryantinsky, p. 83
  36. ^ Janes Armour & Artillery, Kurgan BMP-3M infantry fighting vehicle upgrade (Russian Federation), Armoured personnel carriers (tracked), Janes, accessed 22 December 2008
  37. ^ Foss 2011, p. 101.
  38. ^ a b Foss 2011, p. 85.
  39. ^ Lett, Phillip. Phillip Lett Collection, Box: 8, File: Arena System Proposal- 1998. Auburn, AL: Auburn University. 02-038.
  40. ^ Chazan, Guy (14 July 2000). "Russia Makes a Noisy Pitch To Become Big Arms Exporter". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 7 September 2023. Retrieved 7 September 2023.
  41. ^ Foss 2011, p. 58.