Julie Stahl / CNSNews.com – 2005-03-10 23:34:18
TEL AVIV (March 10, 2005) — It looks like a device from a science fiction or spy movie — an invisible “shield” that surrounds an armored vehicle protecting it from anti-tank missiles and neutralizing them before they reach their target.
But the “Trophy” is an active protection system for armored fighting vehicles, developed by the Israeli military industry companies RAFAEL and ELTA for the Israeli Army. It is intended to protect armored vehicles, including tanks, against all types of anti-tank guided missiles and anti-tank rockets.
The system was one of many weapons-related systems displayed at a three-day conference and exhibition on “Low Intensity Conflict” (urban warfare), sponsored by the Israeli Army this week in Tel Aviv.
After four years of fighting an armed conflict against the Palestinians in the narrow streets of densely populated cities and refugee camps of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel has become one of the most experienced nations in the world in fighting what is called an “asymmetrical” war — a war where an army must fight terror groups who are entrenched within the civilian population.
Maj. David Kanizo, head of doctrine branch in the Ground Forces Command, told the Cybercast News Service that the conference was organized because “the problem of fighting terror, of fighting guerrilla troops is not a private problem of Israel.”
‘The Future of Warfare’
“This kind of warfare is the future warfare,” Kanizo said. “All the armies have to prepare to deal with such kinds of armed conflict.”
Nations have given up on the idea of making war between two armies, Kanizo said. Instead nations are forced to fight against political organizations or groups that want to achieve political goals by force, he said. “So the strategy of the weak [is to] make a small war.”
Some 150 military and security-related officers and officials from 34 nations, including the US, Canada, Chili, Spain, Poland, Germany, Austria, Italy, China, Japan, Sri Lanka, India attended the conference Fifty-five companies as well as the Israeli Army participated in the exhibition.
Among the exhibitions, the Army showcased its developments in “digitizing” the Israeli Army – a complex, computerized system designed to make commanding battles more efficient and to save lives of soldiers and innocent civilians.
“The main advantage is allowing the commanders of all echelons to command and control, to make decisions in a more professional way, in a faster way, in an accurate way,” said Lt. Col. Ofir Dor, Digital Army program officer. “One of our biggest problems is we want to get the bad guys but we don’t want to get the civilians,” said Dor. “When we have a much better picture, [a] video picture and accurate location of our forces we make less mistakes.”
Although the C4I — command, control, communication, computer, intelligence — command system has been in the works for years, the last four years of armed conflict against the Palestinians forced the Army to adapt the system, making it more flexible to meet the needs of urban warfare as well as conventional warfare.
The command system receives and combines information from all available sources (soldiers, sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles) and shows the positions of friendly forces, enemy forces and the intended target to the command center and to the individual field units who carry small wireless computers with them.
Bezhalel Machlis is corporate vice president and general manager of Elbit Systems Ltd., which is developing part of the C4I system to link “sensors to shooters,” which will be implemented first in the Gaza Strip and will become operational within two months.
Sensors placed around the Gaza Strip will create a common picture of what is happening on the ground and be able to activate shooters — tanks, helicopters — “almost automatically in a short time,” said Machlis.
Although this system is being developed uniquely for the Israeli Army, he said, derivatives of it have been sold internationally.
“The rational here is to create a force multiplier…[that] should decrease also civilian casualties. The rationale is to create pinpointing [actions],” he said.
The tank is no longer the biggest enemy of another tank. The biggest enemy is the one who launches a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), said Captain Eli Tetro, Trophy project officer in the Israeli Army’s ground forces command.
For years there has been a constant struggle between the development of new and improved anti-tank missiles and rockets and keeping tanks and armored vehicles impenetrable, Tetro said.
But as tank armor became stronger, the tanks became heavier and bigger. Although armies around the world have been developing ways to break this cycle with active protection systems, the Trophy is the “most mature system in the world,” Tetro said.
The system is comprised of two subsystems: radar and hard kill. The radar is at work all the time. It detects an incoming threat and determines if it is going to hit the armored vehicle, said Tetro. If it is going to hit the vehicle, the radar activates the “hard kill” system — firing a special interceptor that penetrates the rocket or missile and destroys it, he added.
Another Israeli tank innovation was the tank ambulance. Equipped with intensive care capabilities and two stretchers placed in bunk bed style, Israel’s top of the line Merkava tank carries a doctor and medic right onto the battlefield to extricate the wounded.
In August, an Israeli soldier was shot in the head during a battle in the Gaza Strip and was removed from the battlefield quickly by one of these tank ambulances. The attending physician carried out emergency surgery in the tank and saved the soldier’s life.
The tank ambulance, a first of its kind in the world, is thought to be so vital that every tank company going into the Gaza Strip has a tank ambulance assigned to it.
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