Dispute leaves soldiers without missile defense

Disagreement between two Israeli companies has led the Defense Ministry to decide not to install a missile defense system.

By
August 29, 2011 06:52
3 minute read.
The Namer armored personnel carrier

The Namer armored personnel carrier. (photo credit: Courtesy)

An ongoing disagreement between two Israeli companies has led the Defense Ministry to decide not to install a missile defense system on the new Namer (Tiger) armored personnel carrier it is supplying to IDF infantry brigades.

The two companies – Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Military Industries – are refusing to abide by an order from Defense Ministry Dir.-Gen. Udi Shani to combine the active protection systems each company is independently developing into a single system for IDF use.

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Rafael’s system is called Trophy and has already been installed on a battalion of Merkava Mk 4 tanks which are currently deployed along the border with the Gaza Strip. The IDF Ground Forces Command recently decided to install the Trophy also on Merkava Mk 3 tanks as well.

The Trophy provides 360- degree protection against antitank missiles and successfully intercepted a rocket propelled grenade along the border with Gaza earlier this year. Its radar, made by Israel Aerospace Industries subsidiary Elta, detects the threats and then fires a cloud of countermeasures to intercept the incoming missile.

The other system, developed by IMI, is called Iron Fist and in addition to the Trophy’s capabilities is also reported to be capable of intercepting standard tank rounds. The IDF had decided to install the Iron Fist on the Namer in 2009 but then canceled its decision after the system encountered some technological difficulties which were later corrected.

The Iron Fist has completed hundreds of successful interception tests and recently passed an evaluation by the United States Army, according to IMI.

The problem is that the Defense Ministry has decided that it is too expensive to continue investing in the development of two systems by two separate government-owned companies and as a result Shani has ordered the companies to combine their individual systems into one.

“We know what we want and that is a single system with all of the capabilities combined,” a senior IDF officer said recently. “In the meantime, the Namer will unfortunately not have an active protection system since the companies are not working together.”

Both companies claim that their systems are completely different and incompatible and that they are willing to continue their development independently and without financial support from the Ministry of Defense.

Meanwhile, production of the Namer has begun in the US after the Defense Ministry awarded General Dynamics a massive tender to develop the vehicle.

At the cutting edge of APC technology and claimed to be one-of-its-kind in the world by officers in the Ground Forces Command, the Namer is based on the Merkava MK4 Battle Tank and is claimed to have a high level of reinforced steel protection. The decision to develop the new APC was made after the Second Lebanon War in 2006 during which IDF armor suffered heavy losses to Hezbollah antitank missiles.

Battalion 13 of the Golani Brigade has already been outfitted with the Namer and a senior Defense Ministry official said that the remaining three Golani battalions would receive the APC over the next three years.

Under the tender awarded to General Dynamics, Israel will manufacture around 600 Namers over the next eight years. BAE Systems and Textron also competed for the tender which will, in a first phase, reach $400 million. Local industry could benefit from tens of millions of dollars in industrial cooperation during that time period.

The Namer has advanced defensive systems and an internal air conditioning unit which enables the vehicle to continue operating in areas contaminated by non-conventional weapons. The Namer carries a number of machine guns, missile launchers and reconnaissance equipment.


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