Armored Airbags to Protect Vehicles from RPGs and Roadside Bombs

Airbags could prevent RPGs from exploding and neutralize the blast of improvised explosives

Airbag Armor

You know what this vehicle could use? AirbagsChristian Marquardt, 7th Army JMTC

Despite the vehicles' armor, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) can still take out Humvees and MRAP vehicles with ease. But a company wants to change that equation with airbags that neutralize incoming RPGs and prevent them from exploding.

Textron's Tactical RPG Airbag Protection (TRAP) system uses radar to detect incoming warheads and deploy airbags on the threatened side of a vehicle. The airbags prevent the RPGs from exploding at all, and thereby avoids any cloud of shrapnel that could harm nearby infantry or civilians. TRAPS is currently undergoing tests on Humvees, and could also work with the Abrams tank, the Bradley, the Stryker and MRAPs.

The military has focused on countering roadside bombs with drones capable of sniffing out improvised explosives, and painfully realistic virtual simulators for training soldiers on detecting the threats. But DOD Buzz notes that counters to RPGs remain more elusive -- the U.S. military has so far relied on welding steel cages to high-value, lightly armored vehicles such as MRAP minesweepers.

We here at PopSci previously honored a different RPG counter for helicopters that fires nets to neutralize incoming rockets -- a chopper shield that won one of our Invention Awards in 2007.

Defense Tech points to another airbag concept that can deploy at light speed upon detecting blasts from improvised explosives on the road. That concept remains on paper only, despite an illustrative video.