Armor: Trophy Tested With Live Fire

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December 27, 2010: Israel has successfully tested it's the Trophy APS (Active Protection System) with real missiles. Tanks equipped with Trophy were fired on with anti-tank missiles that had inert warheads. Thus, if the missile gets through, the tank crew feels a bump as the missile bounces off. But so far, no missiles have gotten through. Israel is undertaking this highly realistic (and expensive, the anti-tank missiles aren't cheap) testing to see how different conditions (the speed of the tank, the presence of dust and smoke, how close the missile launcher is) influence the performance of Trophy.

It was only last year, after three years of agonizing over the issue, that Israel decided to equip its most modern tanks (Merkava IVs) with an anti-missile system. All this because, four years ago, 22 Israeli Merkava tanks were damaged by Russian Kornet anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) in southern Lebanon. Even before the end of the 2006 war, it was determined that most of the missile hits could have been averted if the tanks had been equipped with available anti-missile systems. Because of this, army armor commanders have been fighting, for over two years, to get the money to equip at least some of their Merkavas with the Trophy APS. Recently, some Trophy equipped Merkavas have been operating in and around Gaza, but Hamas has not fired any missiles at them yet.

Trophy consists of a radar to detect incoming missiles, and small rockets to rush out and disable the incoming threat. A complete trophy system weighs a ton. Russia pioneered the development of these anti-missile systems. The first one, the Drozd, entered active service in 1983, mainly for defense against American ATGMs. These the Russians feared a great deal, as American troops had a lot of them, and the Russians knew these missiles (like TOW) worked. Russia went on to improve their anti-missile systems, but was never able to export many of them. This was largely because these systems were expensive (over $100,000 per vehicle), no one trusted Russian hi-tech that much, and new tanks, like the American M-1, were seen as a bigger threat than ATGMs.

The Israeli Trophy uses better, more reliable, and more expensive technology than the Russian Drozd (or its successors.) For about $350,000 per system, Trophy will protect a vehicle from ATGMs as well as RPGs (which are much more common in combat zones.) Israel is the first Western nation to have a lot of their tanks shot up by modern ATGMs, and apparently fears the situation will only get worse, as Hezbollah has apparently obtained a lot more Kornet missiles (which were mostly used against Israeli infantry, who coped by learning to maneuver differently.)

Israel first encountered ATGM, on a large scale, in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. But these were the clumsy, first generation ATGMs. These turned out to be more smoke than fire. But the latest ATGM, like Kornet, are more deadly, but not by a whole lot. Nevertheless, Israel is getting ready. Israel tried to sell Trophy to the United States, but without success. The results of these highly realistic tests may change the minds of prospective export customers.

 


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