Home inContext Israel Unveils Future of Tank Defense

Israel Unveils Future of Tank Defense

Samara Greenberg

Israel is putting the final touches on a miniature anti-missile system that detects incoming projectiles and shoots them down before they reach its tanks and other armored vehicles, the Associated Press reported earlier this month. The “Trophy” system will be the first of a series of so-called “active defense” systems. Tanks currently rely on thick, heavy layers of armor or “reactive” technology that weakens an incoming rocket’s impact by setting off a small explosion. The new system will neutralize threats before they strike.

If successful, Trophy will radically alter the balance of power between Israel and its non-state terrorist enemies, Hezbollah and Hamas. Indeed, during Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah, half a dozen of Israel’s Merkava tanks were destroyed and more than 30 disabled by Hezbollah hunter-killer missile teams operating across south Lebanon, where the main ground fighting took place. As a result, nineteen Merkava crewmen were killed. The Israeli military had not suffered such high armored losses since the 1973 war against Egypt and Syria.

According to developers, Trophy can stop all anti-tank rockets in Hezbollah’s arsenal. The system does so by detecting incoming missiles, and firing small charges to destroy them. Trophy can even detect whether a missile is going to miss the tank and ignore it as a target.

The Trophy system also has the potential to affect American defense systems in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I think people will be watching the Israelis roll this thing out and see if they can get the hang of it,” said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org. “The future of the United States army is riding on the proposition that something like this can work.” Developers say the U.S. wants to install the Trophy on all 600 Stryker combat vehicles operating in Iraq.