WATCH: The ‘Iron Fist’ completes anti-tank interception tests

In January 2020, the Defense Ministry selected Elbit’s Iron Fist system to be built into the Eitan APC.

Iron Fist intercepting anti-tank weapons during testing. (MINISTRY OF DEFENSE SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)

The Defense Ministry Tank and Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) Directorate, the IDF and the Elbit Systems Land Division on Monday jointly announced the completion of a successful series of "Iron Fist" Active Protection System tests.

The defense system deployed to "Eitan" APCs intercepted anti-tank threats in various challenging scenarios.

Recent conflicts with Hamas and Hezbollah have shown expanding anti-tank capabilities and the absence of such defensive systems in some cases led to ambushes and the deaths of a number of IDF soldiers.

In January 2020, the Defense Ministry selected Elbit’s Iron Fist system to be built into the Eitan APC.

The terms of the contract released at the time valued the deal at approximately $31 million (NIS 109 million).

Logo of Israeli defence electronics firm Elbit Systems is seen at their offices in Haifa (credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)Logo of Israeli defence electronics firm Elbit Systems is seen at their offices in Haifa (credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)

The contract was due to be for a five-year period and the latest successful exercise appears to show substantial progress, though the ministry said it still had no concrete timeline for when the system will actually be deployed in the field.

How does the Iron Fist work?

The "Iron Fist" system developed by Elbit Systems is an advanced active protection system that provides 360-degree coverage against multi-range threats in open and urban environments.

The urban environment part is especially critical as Hamas and Hezbollah’s abilities to fight IDF soldiers to more of a draw using asymmetric guerilla warfare increases in densely populated areas.

In addition to its defensive capabilities, the ”Iron Fist” provides APC teams with fire source location to close the fire circle in multi-threat combat arenas.

The system includes an electro-optic sensor suit, searching and tracking radar, and a reaction suit with launchers and interceptors, neutralizing threats at a safe distance from the APC.

“The Iron Fist will substantially improve the protection of the Eitan APC and enhance the vehicle's maneuverability in combat while protecting combat soldiers."

Brig.-Gen. Oren Giber

This can allow directing counterfire against sources of enemy fire much more rapidly so as to retake the initiative and emphasize the IDF’s advanced warfare capabilities.

Head of the Defense Tank and APC Directorate in the Defense Ministry, Brig.-Gen. Oren Giber said, "The Iron Fist system is…currently in advanced stages of development and deployment to the 'Eitan' APC and the bulldozer, undergoing rigorous trials to ensure its suitability for the battlefield.”

Giber added, “the Iron Fist will substantially improve the protection of the Eitan APC and enhance the vehicle's maneuverability in combat while protecting combat soldiers."

IDF Ground Forces Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. Aviram Sela stated that "this series of successful tests is a significant milestone in the joint development process.”

General Manager of Elbit Systems Land, Yehuda (Udi) Vered elaborated that the "advanced active protection technology…is a significant contribution to force structure buildup, to the safety of the crew and the continuity of the mission. The Iron Fist Active Protection System is unique, being a lightweight system that can be installed on a variety of fighting vehicles.”

The Eitan and the new Iron Fist system is slated to replace the military’s M113 fully tracked armored personnel carrier.

First revealed in 2016, the Eitan has undergone a comprehensive series of tests, with Monday's being the latest. 

As a wheeled APC, the Eitan does not need to be moved on heavy transporters like the Namer and other APCs in use by the military, which makes it more maneuverable.

At eight meters long and three meters wide the Eitan weighs in at 30-35 tons and is operated by three crew members – the commander, gunner and driver and can carry nine fighters in an air-conditioned environment. Its body has been improved to maximize crew protection and survivability as well as the suspension system. In addition, improvements were made to the steering, as well as to the electric and control systems.

Equipped with a 750-horsepower engine, the Eitan will be able to reach speeds of up to 90 kilometers an hour on roads in urban areas while still able to maneuver off-road with independent suspension and an off-the-shelf drivetrain.

The Eitan will also be equipped with an FN MAG, .50 caliber heavy machine gun and a 30mm cannon with a range of 2,500 meters and a missile launcher that can be operated without the crews leaving the vehicle and exposing themselves to the enemy.

Anna Ahronheim contributed to this story.