Trophy's AESA radar and dummy launcher
|Place of origin||Israel|
|Wars||Operation Protective Edge|
|Designer||Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Elta Group|
Trophy (also known as ASPRO-A, Israel Defense Forces designation מעיל רוח, lit. "Windbreaker") is a military active protection system (APS) for vehicles. It intercepts and destroys incoming missiles and rockets with a shotgun-like blast. Trophy is the product of a ten-year collaborative development project between the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aircraft Industries' Elta Group. Its principal purpose is to supplement the armour of light and heavy armored fighting vehicles.
As of 2012[update], the system was being integrated onto Israeli Merkava main battle tanks. The design includes the Elta EL/M-2133 F/G band fire-control radar with four flat-panel antennas mounted on the vehicle, with a 360-degree field of view. When a projectile is detected, the internal computer calculates an approach vector almost instantly, before it arrives. Once the incoming weapon is fully classified, the computers calculate the optimal time and angle to fire the neutralizers. The response comes from two rotating launchers installed on the sides of the vehicle which fire neutralizing agents, usually small metal pellets like buckshot. The system is designed to have a very small kill zone, so as not to endanger personnel adjacent to the protected vehicle.
The system is designed to work against all types of anti-tank missiles and rockets, including handheld weapons such as rocket propelled grenades. The system can simultaneously engage several threats arriving from different directions, is effective on stationary or moving platforms, and is effective against both short- and long-range threats. Newer versions of the system include a reloading feature for multiple firings. The Trophy development plan includes an enhanced countermeasures unit to be available in the future for protection against kinetic energy penetrators.
The primary role of Trophy is defence against missile strikes, particularly for lighter armored personnel carriers, which are very vulnerable to rocket attacks. Use of Trophy on the Stryker vehicle would remove the need for heavy slat armor to defend against high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warheads, and allow a battle-ready vehicle to fit into a C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft; slat armour must be removed before the vehicle is loaded into the plane and reattached at the destination, which takes over 100 hours of cutting and welding, impractical under combat conditions. The reduction in size due to omission of the armor would improve the vehicle's ability to navigate urban areas.
Although proven in combat, and despite the manufacturer's claims of "less than one percent" chance of collateral damage or wounding nearby infantry, the Israelis did have to modify their tactics and have the infantry follow a safe distance behind tanks equipped with Trophy rather than accompany them, a potential disadvantage given tanks' limited situational awareness in urban terrain, despite Rafael’s contention that keeping soldiers away from armored vehicles is Israeli standard procedure and they being able to take cover behind a tank when taking fire has not changed; another point of criticism is the supposedly simple radar system. The system is also currently incapable of defeating tank shells.
A new version called "Trophy Light" was unveiled by Rafael Advanced Defence Systems at Britain’s DSEi 2007. While the standard Trophy was designed for main battle tanks, Trophy Light is designed for integration with light and medium armoured vehicles, such as Rafael's Golan. The system is also being evaluated for the protection of Israel Navy fast patrol boats, which, like the tanks, are exposed to RPG and missile attacks. It is expected to be about half the weight and volume of the standard Trophy and cost less. According to Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the development will only require design and engineering work on the launcher/loader and munitions.
In June 2014, Rafael unveiled Trophy LV, a lighter application of the system designed to offer protection to light military vehicles (less than 8 tons) such as jeeps and 4x4s. It weighs 200 kilograms (440 lb), significantly less than other Trophy applications.
In December 2014, it was revealed that Rafael, IAI, and Israel Military Industries had agreed to jointly develop a next-generation active defense system for vehicles, based on a combination of the Rafael/IAI Trophy and IMI Iron Fist. Rafael will act as the main contractor and system developer and integrator, and IAI and IMI will be subcontractors providing the radar and interceptor respectively. Unlike the Trophy's interception method of metal pellets that spread over a wide area, IMI's interceptor is based on an anti-missile missile. Interest for a vehicle APS grew significantly following Trophy's successful performance during Operation Protective Edge in mid-2014, where dozens of tanks equipped with the system suffered no injuries or false alarms. The Defense Ministry had pushed the companies to work together and combine their systems.
Trophy has been evaluated with extensive testing on a Stryker vehicle for possible adoption by the US Army, and a Canadian LAV III. The U.S. Department of Defense had contracted with Raytheon to develop an equivalent system, Quick Kill, possibly causing reluctance to buy Trophy. The U.S. Army tested the Trophy system in 2016, to be fielded within two years as an interim capability until the Modular Active Protection System (MAPS) program produces a system; the Army plans to field a brigade of over 80 tanks equipped with Trophy to Europe in 2020.
Following the series of tests of the Trophy system, the IDF Ground Forces Command declared the Trophy operational in August 2009. It was scheduled to be installed in an entire battalion of Israeli Armored Corps tanks by 2010.
On March 1, 2011, stationed near the Gaza border, a Merkava MK IV equipped with the Trophy system foiled a missile attack aimed toward it and became the first operational success of the Trophy active defence system. On March 20, 2011, a missile was fired at a Merkava MK IV tank equipped with Trophy system inside the Israeli area along the perimeter fence of the Gaza Strip. The system detected the attack, but determined that it did not endanger the tank and did not intercept it; it passed information about the shooting to the crew, who attacked the source of fire. On August 1, 2012, Trophy successfully intercepted an anti-tank missile launched from the Gaza Strip at a Merkava tank near Kissufim junction.
On July 14, 2014, the Trophy system successfully intercepted a 9M133 Kornet anti-tank missile fired from Gaza at an IDF tank. Since the beginning of the Israeli Operation Protective Edge to July 20, 2014, at least four Israeli tanks of senior commanders were protected by the Trophy system in the Gaza Strip. According to reports from the front, since the beginning of the ground operation, the system successfully intercepted five anti-tank missiles that were aimed at armored IDF vehicles in Gaza. On July 22, 2014, according to a video by a Palestinian group, the Trophy system installed on a Merkava IV tank successfully intercepted an RPG-29 rocket fired at the tank. According to Debkafile, Hamas has tried to stop Israeli tanks with two kinds of advanced guided anti-tank missiles, the Russian Kornet-E, and the 9M113 Konkurs, but Trophy intercepted them successfully. The appearance of near-invulnerable mobile land platforms suggest the current warfare paradigm may need revising. Trophy is currently operational on all Merkava Mark-IV tanks of the IDF's 401st Armored Brigade, as well as with the 7th Armored Brigade 75th Battalion new Merkava IV tanks. In July, the Israeli MOD announced it has completed the integration of Trophy on its first brigade company of NAMER APCs. At the same time, it has also been declared that the Trophy is slated to be fitted on the IDF's "Eitan" wheeled armored vehicle. in November 2016 it was announced that the IDF will purchase hundreds more Trophy systems to be installed on almost all of its Merkava 4 MBTs and NAMER APC/IFVs.
No tanks were damaged during Operation Protective Edge, with the Trophy Active Protection system performing over a dozen interceptions of anti-tank weapons including Kornet, Metis and RPG-29. The system, by identifying the source of fire, on occasion also allowed tanks to kill the Hamas anti-tank team.
Giora Katz, head of Rafael's land division, stated that it was a "breakthrough because it is the first time in military history where an active defense system has proven itself in intense fighting." During the war, Trophy validated itself in dozens of events, protecting tanks and crews over three weeks of high-threat maneuvering operations in built-up areas without a single hit to defended platforms and zero false alarms".
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