A Trophy to be proud of

Tank defense system could radically alter the balance of power on both the Lebanese and Gaza fronts.

trophy tank system 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy: IDF)
trophy tank system 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy: IDF)
It happened so quickly and functioned so flawlessly that the IDF tank crews doing routine duties last Tuesday near the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip frontline didn’t even notice anything unusual.
They didn’t immediately realize that they had just witnessed history in the making and that the lives of a fourman crew had been spared when the miniature Trophy system, fixed onto all tanks in the Gaza sector, recognized that a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) had been launched at one of the tanks.
Trophy intercepted the RPG with a neutralizer and blew up the incoming projectile in mid-air, with no harm wrought to either the tank or to the corpsmen in its belly.
The system quickly reloads in a fully automated process. It’s “smart” enough to hold fire if an RPG is about to miss its target. Moreover, the explosion it sets off is so small that friendly-fire casualties are highly unlikely.
The Trophy’s premiere matters not only for Israel but globally. This was the first time that antitank fire had been successfully intercepted under real combat zone conditions, as distinct from controlled trials. The implications both to Israel and its allies cannot be overestimated.
Rocketry that is easy to carry is a favorite weapon for terrorists and a whole host of irregulars – from Hamas and Hezbollah on our own doorstep to the roadside-ambushers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Trophy (known locally as Me’il Ruah – windbreaker in Hebrew) could radically alter the balance of power on both the Lebanese and Gaza fronts and it could become crucial for US and allied forces battling al-Qaida and associated insurgents.
The proven effectiveness of the Israeli breakthrough is a game-changer and as such is extremely good news – not only for us.
BUT FOR us it is especially meaningful and gratifying.
The antitank rockets, beginning with the portable Sager, which the Egyptians renamed Fahad in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, had been the bane of the IDF Armored Corps. Until now, the answers had been increasingly thick steel protective plates for the tanks to literally dull the blow. But improved rockets proved essentially able to penetrate any shield and there are limits to how much armor can be piled on a tank without impeding its movement.
Realizing how deadly portable hollow-pipe devices can be, both Hamas and Hezbollah stocked up on them, amassing colossal arsenals. In the Second Lebanon War in 2006, dozens of Israeli tanks were struck, 19 crewmen were killed and others wounded.
But while Israel’s enemies were arming themselves to the teeth, Israel’s scientists – foremost at Raphael – were busy re-accentuating the country’s qualitative military edge, which had sometimes appeared to be fading.
Their success sends a message to Israelis at home and to friends and foes abroad: do not underrate us. We can spring back and we are a force to be reckoned with.
It’s important that Israel’s allies especially appreciate this. There are perennial doubts here and discordant gripes in America about our value as partners. Among the chief factors that demonstrate Israel’s unique importance as a viable democratic mainstay is our technological achievements. We do not only receive – as narrowminded US critics carp. We also give. The newest Israeli contribution to the modern battlefield will eventually not only save more Israeli lives, but the lives of many Americans too.
To be sure, at this stage, the Trophy is pricy, costing NIS 1 million per tank, but it is an eminently worthwhile expense. The Trophy is perceived as the harbinger of the future in ground warfare, being the first operational active defense system, and capable of granting Israel a new strategic advantage.
It is not alone. In the works is the Iron Fist, an antimissile defense that is being custom-designed for armored personnel carriers. Its jamming capabilities can swerve an oncoming rocket off course, or it can detonate it with shock waves.
Lots more is being concocted in Israeli labs, workshops and testing grounds. Despite our proven penchant for fault-finding and self-deprecation, this is a fitting occasion for unstinting collective pride. Our defenses and those who man them are, mercifully, a little more secure today in the face of our enemies.