While nine Iron Dome batteries scattered around Israel protect the lives of millions of Israeli citizens, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tanks and armored vehicles operating in the Gaza Strip have their own Iron Dome: Operation Protective Edge is the first real test of Wind Jacket (known internationally as Trophy), the first-of-its-kind active-defense system for tanks and armored personnel carriers (APCs). The defense system was developed by Iron Dome developer and manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. and was first used in late 2010. The system has since been declared operational, and is installed on Merkava 4 tanks, the newest tanks in the IDF Armored Corps fleet, and on the Namer APCs (APCs built on a Merkava tank frame). According to reports from the front, since the beginning of the ground operation last Thursday night, the system has successfully intercepted five anti-tank missiles that were aimed at armored IDF vehicles in Gaza.
The defense system is based on radar from Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP.B1) unit ELTA Systems, which identifies anti-tank or RPG fire headed towards the armored vehicle. When the threat is identified, the system works automatically, with no need for the tank crew to be aware of, or to operate it in real time: it calculates the rocket or missile’s trajectory, and, if it finds that it is headed for the vehicle on which it is installed, it intercepts and detonates it at a safe distance from the vehicle. The first successful interception was in March 2011, when an RPG-7 rocket was intercepted above an IDF tank on patrol along the Gaza border. In addition, the system informs the tank crew of the exact location from which the missile or rocket was launched, so the crew can return fire accurately and hit the target.
With the successful development of Trophy, Rafael has left many weapons companies around the world, which have been trying for many years to find a solution for the growing threat of anti-tank missiles, in the dust. Rafael has been working on developing the groundbreaking system for more than twenty years. Following the Second Lebanon War, in 2006, the urgency of finding means of reducing the vulnerability of tanks to anti-tank missiles was reprioritized, as new anti-tank missiles came into use, including the Russian-made Kornet and Metis missiles. A significant portion of the damage sustained by the Israeli Armored Corps in southern Lebanon in 2006 was from such missiles.
Last month, the annual Israel Defense Prize event took place at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. Most of the winning technologies cannot be described, or even hinted at, due to their extremely sensitive nature. It is only possible to say that the joint Ministry of Defense-Rafael team that led the Trophy development was among teams that won the prize. “One of the most impressive things about Trophy is that, until today, no one in the world has successfully implemented such a system for combat use,” a senior defense source said a few weeks ago, “Perhaps they succeeded making a demonstration with all sorts of trials, but they have not succeeded in making it operational. The system must react in a fraction of a second, to identify the missile, to shoot, and to destroy it, and on the other hand, it also needs to be super-safe, and it cannot make a mistake and deploy accidentally. This is an automated system, and part of its complexity lies in that it cannot operate against helicopters or other tanks near the vehicle it is defending in the battlefield. Just the fact that it deploys itself in situations when a missile is fired and it must react in a fraction of a second is an extremely impressive technological feat.”
Trophy interceptions are deployed at a significant distance from the targeted vehicle - this is so that ground troops operating near it will not be harmed by the blast, despite the fact that it is a fully-autonomous firing system. “When we received the safety approval for this system, it was one of the pinnacle moments,” said a senior Rafael developer who worked on the system. “Our goal was for this system to be safe, and to be able to fulfill its role in a way that would allow the Armored Corps both safety and combat maneuverability.”
Since late 2010, every Merkava tank that leaves the Maintenance and Reconstruction Center in Tel Hashomer, which includes the Ministry of Defense and IDF tank administration and manufactures the Merkava 4 tanks, carries the system, which gives it 360° defense.
Following Trophy's success in December 2012, Rafael announced a partnership with DRS Technologies. At the center of the partnership between the two companies is adapting Trophy for the US Army’s Ground Forces. Last month, Rafael unveiled a new application of the system, which allows relatively small vehicles, such as Jeeps, operating regularly in defense situations to be protected from RPGs and anti-tank missiles. This version of the system is called Trophy LV.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 20, 2014
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2014