Israel introduces anti-RPG technology in Gaza & US implications

Posted on: July 30th, 2014 by Will Rodriguez 12 Comments

I read in FoxtrotAlpha.jalopnik.com an essay on Israel’s first combat employment of the Trophy active protection system (APS).  This immediately caught my eye because of my experience modeling the system in 2003.  The system is mounted on Israeli Merkava 4 tanks and Namer infantry carriers.  It consists of fixed array radar to pick up incoming missiles like RPG’s and heavier anti-tank missiles.  The system computes the path, aims a launcher and fires a canister filled with explosively formed projectiles (EFP).  The canister explodes in close proximity to the missile where the EFP’s destroy or damage it defeating its ability to penetrate the target’s armor.

 

Here’s a video of a Merkava tank defeating an RPG-29 with the Trophy system in Gaza.  At first Hamas thought the RPG successfully hit the tank but you can see the RPG destroyed in close proximity to the tank’s flank.

 

Globes reports five different Israeli armored vehicles have successfully been defended by Trophy also known as Wind Jacket in Israel.  The system is manufactured by Rafael.  The system can be used while on the move and against multiple threats from different directions as long as the system has ammunition.  It was first fielded on Israel’s best tank the Merkava IV in 2009.

 

The above video depicts the Trophy Lite system for smaller vehicles like the HMMWV.  Of special note, is the slow motion clip of a Trophy canister defeating an RPG round in midflight.

 

A final bonus of the Trophy (and other APS) is the system identifies the shooter’s location allowing the tank to slew its weapons quickly and engage the enemy before they can fire a second round.  Many of top armored fighting vehicles in the world including the Merkava IV, Leopard II, M1A2 and M2A3 Bradley have independent commander’s sights.  This allows the commander to find follow up targets and at the press of a switch slew the vehicles weapons on an immediate or follow up threat.  Automating this capability with APS would allow for even quicker engagement of missile firing threats.

 

One of the major concerns about APS systems like trophy is their potential to cause injury to dismounted personnel.  Rafael says troops can operate relatively safely  near vehicles because the system engages incoming threats 10-30 meters from the vehicle.  I’m skeptical.  Being near the launchers when they fire a canister has to have some blast impact on nearby personnel and troops especially supporting Infantry are not supposed to be near the vehicle especially if they are protecting it or engaging the enemy.  They, along with civilians must be at risk during the interception of an incoming round.

 

Trophy has come a long way since 2003 where it was a one shot system and relied on ball bearings.  At that time the US was pursuing its own system in conjunction with the ill fated Future Combat System (FCS).  Raytheon’s Quick Kill program provides the same capability but from a central launcher that holds 8-15 rounds.

 

Here’s a video of the Quick Kill system engaging a target.

 

Abrams Trophy Model

Model depicting Trophy mounted on an M1A2 tank at the 2013 Maneuver Conference. Photo by author

 

Stryker Trophy Model

Model depicting Trophy mounted on a Stryker at the 2013 Maneuver Conference. Photo by author

The Quick Kill and Trophy systems are undergoing testing by the US Army.  There is a controversy surrounding the systems with some saying the Army should have adopted Trophy and fielded it because it had a quicker development record.  The argument often fails to mention even the Israelis didn’t field the system until 2009 while it was still much more dangerous to dismounted troops and civilians and still can pose a threat to those individuals in many cases.  Other issues with APS systems are weight, power requirements, impact on communications, battle control systems and anti-IED systems.

 

APS is a promising and very welcome development in increasing vehicle survivability but it has its drawbacks that seem to be glossed over in defense media stories.  In my last position before retiring, part of my duties involved supervising qualitative simulations on FCS in various future scenarios and incorporating APS to determine its potential effectiveness.  This is part of the way the Army determines what technology to pursue and how much of it is wanted.  We try to answer questions like, in what situations does APS have to be nonlethal to dismounted troops?  How many reloads are optimal?  As with any advance in survivability the reaction is an effort to overcome that advancement.  Volley and multiple engagements on an APS vehicle can overwhelm the system especially if it has limited reloads and/or a limited aspect of protection.  E.G. if a system needs two launchers to provide 360 degree protection an enemy can focus its attacks from on direction and eventually exhaust a system’s reloads.  A material solution is a weapon that fires multiple slightly staggered rounds.  The Russians have developed exactly such a system in the RPG-30.

 

Active Protection Systems are the future and promise to increase survivability and even drive a move to lower the weight of some armored vehicles.  Israel is pursuing a system eerily similar in many ways to the failed FCS system called Future Manned Combat Vehicle (FMCV).  The plan is to use APS to lower the weight of armored vehicles and use common components and have a modular capability for a variety of specific roles especially in urban environments.  In that regard the FMCV is less ambitious than our FCS program.

 

Further Information

Various Trophy System Video

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  • Camo_Steve

    Very cool technology!

    My first thoughts when I started to read this was “what about the guys outside?”. I liked how you address this concern later in the post and that you provided your own experience about testing the concepts of the earlier versions of APS.

    A few possible problems I see with the APS systems besides the ones mention in this post ,are the following:

    *In a convoy, having alot of these systems running at the same time, how do you prevent multiple APS systems attacking the same rocket? That would causes alot of waste and redirects the focus of all of the systems on one target, instead of focusing on rockets near their sectors. 
    *The APS systems may be vulnerable to some kind of jamming.
    *The ammo for these systems may be quite expensive or become expensive as the systems become more sophisticated.
    *The APS are being portrayed/marketed as a almost perfect solution for all situations. This is something you touch on when discussing the drawbacks. 

    My view is that in the end of the day, these APS systems are just going to be another tool in the tool box. It handles specific problems in specific situations. I think its going to be essential that we learn when to use these and not use them. If we end up pushing the system to do more than it was originally made for, we may end up having extra baggage associated, kinda like how the humvee was supposed to be a simple replacement for the jeep but ends of being a battle taxi, which now causes the vehicle to be too heavy, bulky, etc.

  • Camo_Steve Thanks.
    Like Iron Dome most of these systems determine what incoming missiles are actually going to hit the vehicle vs. miss.  They engage the rounds that will strike the vehicle and let the others go by.

  • YankeePapa

    .
    …In Rhodesia ca. 1973-80 we were restricted to a somewhat more low tech approach to dealing with RPGs.  We had a plethora of designs of so called “mine-proof” vehicles.  Smallest could run on a VW engine… larger ones used Land Rover and larger engines.
    .
    …Various approaches… water filled tires… bolts that would shear upon sufficient impact… dislodging the troop compartment… Some could then dissipate energy in a roll… (Troopies of course strapped in… so they wouldn’t be like BBs in a boxcar…) Models from the mid-70s started to have sharp angles to deflect RPG rockets…
    https://www.google.com/search?q=rhodesian+mine+proof+vehicles+images&client=firefox-a&hs=MFk&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=sb&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=QM3ZU5vHGaTUiwLQnICgCg&ved=0CCEQsAQ&biw=1016&bih=627

    I did not see any of my images of “mineproofs” on the above links… I have a number of photographs of my own.  
    .
    -YP-

  • Camo_Steve

    YankeePapa The google link was interesting. You can tell that our modern MRAPs incorporates some of the design aspects from the past such as the shaped hull.

  • YankeePapa

    Camo_Steve YankeePapa ,
    .
    …Sloped armor of course goes back to the old suits of armor.  In WW2 it soon became clear that sloped armor massively improved tank survivability without massively increasing weight.  
    .
    …Rhodesia and South Africa at first more concerned about mines… but by 1975 when Mozambique and Angola in Marxist hands… supplies of RPGs to terrs went through the roof.  
    .
    …Vast numbers were captured by the Rhodesian Security Forces… which was a good thing because Rhodesia had no tanks… only armored cars and if Cuban troops crossed the border heading up a conventional invasion… which could not be discounted… an anti-armor capability would have been at a premium.  
    .
    …In the last years of the war the Rhodesians “kidnapped” a number of T-54/55 tanks and took them back to Rhodesia.  
    .
    -YP-

  • YankeePapa Camo_Steve 
    We owe much to Rhodesia and S. Africa when it comes to modern MRAP construction.  We even purchased some S. African models early in our quest for MRAPs.  The link to the past would be an interesting story.  (thanks for the pics and hint, hint… 😉

    That said, MRAP technology is quite different than anti-tank missile tech.

  • LawyerHandle

    Hamas is running out of women and children to hide behind in Gaza so they are moving on to Western journos.
    http://youtu.be/EaqWqjb4w6s

  • Txazz

    majrod Camo_Steve Awesome, Maj – I found this fascinating, the technology that “it” knows where and what is coming in.  With Iron Dome it has more time and space than these do.
    I would not want to be outside in the near vicinity.

  • Camo_Steve

    Btw, is there a possibility that these systems could be incorporated somehow into helicopters?

  • Camo_Steve 
    Doubtful.  Power isn’t probably an issue but these things aren’t necessarily light so performance will be impacted.  Even more importantly is that while these types of systems stop the incoming missile, they don’t stop the resulting shrapnel which is why they are mounted on armored vehicles.  Aircraft are generally unarmored or lightly armored so the aircraft would still suffer damage.

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  • Tango9

    RPGs  ugh
    “Don’t they ever run out of those things?” 
    best line from a video game, ever…. ok… second best.  The best is “Who the hell is Mushy Snugglebites?”