To protect against weapons like the RPG, you need active protection, and the Trophy is a result of that – Didi Ben Yoash, Business Development Manager of RAFAEL’s Active Protection Systems division. One of the most deadly weapons that America’s fighting men and women in Iraq face are rocket propelled grenades – the shoulder-launched missile weapon known as RPGs which are favored by insurgents.
Now, an Israeli-developed technology with a futuristic bent is raising hopes that the RPG threat will become a thing of the past.
Taking a cue from The Incredibles in which teenage daughter Violet is able to create a protective force shield bubble around herself, the Trophy Active Protection System – developed by RAFAEL Armament Development Authority – does something uncannily similar with armored military vehicles.
In live-fire tests conducted by weapons manufacturer General Dynamics Land Systems in Dahlgren, Virginia last week, the Trophy detected, tracked and knocked out an inert RPG fired at a moving Stryker armored car using a small rocket automatically launched from the vehicle.
“Our mission is not to discover the 100 percent solution, but to find the best solution that can meet warfighter needs today,” said Marine Corps Col. Wade Hall, in a General Dynamics news release after the test. “Currently, the warfighters’ only counter to the RPG threat is armor, more armor and more armor.
“As demonstrated today, the Department of Defense now has at its disposal technology that allows US Forces to defeat both the archer and the arrow.”
According to Didi Ben Yoash, Business Development Manager of RAFAEL’s Active Protection Systems division, the Trophy was developed as a result of the changing nature of urban conflict, as exemplified by the US presence in Iraq.
“The whole concept of warfare has changed drastically. Traditional protection has been passive – which means armor. But armor has a number of deficiencies. For one, armor makes many vehicles too heavy,” Ben Yoash told ISRAEL21c. “Moreover, armor doesn’t protect 360 degrees around the vehicle.”
“With conventional warfare, we knew more or less where the enemy was – which was right in front of you. With today’s low intensity conflicts, threats are coming from all around – from every direction, and we need the protection to be all around as well. To protect against weapons like the RPG, you need active protection, and the Trophy is a result of that,” he added.
The Trophy system is a miniaturized version of the anti-ballistic missile system that automatically detects an incoming threat and launches an interceptor rocket that homes in on the missile and destroys it at a safe distance. Designed to mounted on a fighting vehicle and provide a virtual bubble of protection, it includes rockets that are launched vertically and knock down the RPG round as it streaks toward the vehicle.
The Trophy is based on a system designed by an Israeli industry consortium headed by RAFAEL, including Israel Military Industries, and Israel Aircraft Industries/ELTA. After evaluating several systems available in the world market, General Dynamics entered into the agreement with the consortium and selected the system to offer to the US Army and other customers. GD plans to introduce the system with every new and existing combat vehicle it produces, including Stryker, M-1A2 and FCS.
Ben Yoash explained that the Trophy consists of three major operational steps – detection, tracking and interception.
“First the threat is detected by radar which covers 360 degrees around the vehicle via four antennas.
In addition to detecting, the radar classifies and tracks the threat and determines if the threat is about to hit the vehicle,” he said.
Once an incoming threat is detected identified and verified, a ‘countermeasure assembly’ is opened, which Ben Yoash calls “the hard kill mechanism.” The hard kill mechanism is positioned in the direction where it can effectively intercept the threat. Then, it is launched automatically into a ballistic trajectory to intercept the incoming threat at a relatively long distance.
According to Defense Weekly, the Trophy is design to form a ‘beam’ of fragments, which will intercept any incoming heat threat, including RPG rockets at a range of 10-30 meters from the protected platform. Trophy was designed to effectively operate in a dense urban environment, where armored vehicles operate closely with integrated infantry forces. Therefore, direction, formation and energy of the fragments are designed to ensure effective target kill with low collateral damage, and low risk to nearby troops.
“This counter measure hits the threat directly – it doesn’t explode around the threat – so the collateral damage is minimal,” said Ben Yoash.
According to Ben Yoash, the concept of the Trophy was first developed over ten years ago, with the idea of incorporating it into the Merkava tanks used by the Israel Defense Forces.
“While the feasibility of the system was proven seven years ago, turning it into a full time project took several years.
The goal is have the Trophy be operational on the Merkava Mach 4 sometime next year. It’s actually ready for production and deployment, but it’s an issue of budget at this point,” said Ben Yoash.
Last year, General Dynamics and RAFAEL entered into a teaming agreement to introduce Trophy for possible integration on US ground vehicle fleets in Iraq. The system was brought to the US as part of the Pentagon’s Project Sheriff – an initiative to improve the safety of US vehicles operating in Iraq. The program is run by the Defense Department’s Office of Force Transition.
“RPGs are a threat to any army fighting an elevated conflict. If the Trophy has been successful in its tests, as they say it has, then it’s great news,” military expert Alon Ben-David told ISRAEL21c.
While there are many companies developing anti-RPG technology, the success of the Trophy tests have put RAFAEL ahead of the competition, according to Ben-David, military correspondent for Jane’s Defense Weekly.
“They’re in very good shape, and in the advanced stages of developing this system.”
Ben Yoash confirmed that while last week’s test was the first one conducted in the US, there have been hundreds of lives tests in Israel.
“The goal of the Office of Force Transition is to get this operational as soon as possible,” he said. “They aim for the first Sheriff vehicles equipped with the Trophy to go to Iraq by the end of the year, or early in 2007.”