While nine Iron Dome batteries scattered around Israel protect the lives of millions of Israeli citizens, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tanks and armored vehicles operating in the Gaza Strip have their own Iron Dome: Operation Protective Edge is the first real test of Wind Jacket (known internationally as Trophy), the first-of-its-kind active-defense system for tanks and armored personnel carriers (APCs). The defense system was developed by Iron Dome developer and manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. and was first used in late 2010. The system has since been declared operational, and is installed on Merkava 4 tanks, the newest tanks in the IDF Armored Corps fleet, and on the Namer APCs (APCs built on a Merkava tank frame). According to reports from the front, since the beginning of the ground operation last Thursday night, the system has successfully intercepted five anti-tank missiles that were aimed at armored IDF vehicles in Gaza.
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The defense system is based on radar from Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP.B1) unit ELTA Systems, which identifies anti-tank or RPG fire headed towards the armored vehicle. When the threat is identified, the system works automatically, with no need for the tank crew to be aware of, or to operate it in real time: it calculates the rocket or missile’s trajectory, and, if it finds that it is headed for the vehicle on which it is installed, it intercepts and detonates it at a safe distance from the vehicle. The first successful interception was in March 2011, when an RPG-7 rocket was intercepted above an IDF tank on patrol along the Gaza border. In addition, the system informs the tank crew of the exact location from which the missile or rocket was launched, so the crew can return fire accurately and hit the target.
With the successful development of Trophy, Rafael has left many weapons companies around the world, which have been trying for many years to find a solution for the growing threat of anti-tank missiles, in the dust. Rafael has been working on developing the groundbreaking system for more than twenty years. Following the Second Lebanon War, in 2006, the urgency of finding means of reducing the vulnerability of tanks to anti-tank missiles was reprioritized, as new anti-tank missiles came into use, including the Russian-made Kornet and Metis missiles. A significant portion of the damage sustained by the Israeli Armored Corps in southern Lebanon in 2006 was from such missiles.
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