Archive for July 11, 2012
When the Target Shoots Back
DETROIT — We don’t usually think of reactive armor as a solution to the quick hit-and-run tactics of assymetric warfare, but a retired Israeli Defense Force officer says it can be key to solving the problem of ambush attacks.
Modern armies equipped with tanks, armored vehicles and other big ticket defense platforms can still fall victim to insurgents who can fire off a relatively inexpensive rocket propelled grenade (RPG) and then fade into the community, Retired IDF Lt. Col. Maxi Blum told a military ground vehicles conference in Detroit today (July 11).
In asymmetric warfare – where a small group of insurgents can turn a bigger, armed force’s advantages against itself – there is often little for an army to shoot its big weapons at. The “empty battlefield,” Blum called it. Meanwhile, smaller weapons in the hands of insurgents can have deadly consequences for an organized armed force.
“One of our generals was killed by a child with an RPG in Lebanon in 1982,” Blum told the conference, sponsored by a trade group, the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA).
The problem, he said, is the relatively short distance covered at high speed by RPGs, and other anti-tank weapons. “There’s no human reaction time, no alert time,” Blum said.
But reactive armor can cut that advantage by exploding on contact with an incoming round and neutralizing its impact.
Earlier in the day, Dr. Daniel Yaziv, of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, discussed the advantages of reactive armor developed by the Israeli company since the 1980s. Rafael, working with General Dynamics, won a series of U.S. Army contracts to provide reactive armor for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
Now, the TROPHY active protection system goes a step farther than explosive reactive armor. It tracks incoming rockets and other projectiles fired at close range and launches countermeasures a safe distance from the vehicle. TROPHY for heavy vehicles is already being used on Israeli Merkava Mark 3 and 4 main battle tanks. A similar system is in development for medium vehicles like the U.S. Army’s Stryker and the Marine Corps’ Light Armored Vehicle (LAV).
A third version, that would use radar to detect and fire an “energetic blade” to destroy an incoming rocket is being developed for light vehicles like the HUMVEE and the proposed Army and Marine Corps Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
Other companies in the U.S. and elsewhere have developed similar reactive armor systems such as Textron’s Tactical RPG Airbag Protection System (TRAPS), Raytheon’s Quick Kill and Zaslon, developed in Ukraine by Mircotech and Immersion High Tech.
The IDGA conference runs until Friday at Detroit’s Cobo Center.