Photo Credit: Rafael
Rafael’s Trophy system on U.S. Military M1 Abrams tank.

(JNS) When Michael Lurie, vice president at Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and head of its Maneuver Systems Directorate, recalls the first time that the company’s Trophy system went into action, he gets goosebumps.

The year was 2011, and an Israel Defense Forces tank was on the border with Gaza. In a recorded encounter, tank crew members were conducting a lookout and reported over the army’s communications system that they had spotted a figure wandering around a structure in the Strip.

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“And then suddenly, an alert went off, and a missile appears. The soldiers didn’t understand what had happened. They tell one another, ‘We’ve been fired on; we’re supposed to be dead.’ When you hear the dryness of the conversation and the insight of the soldiers as to what had just happened, it really gives one goosebumps,” Lurie told JNS.

The Trophy active protection system, which defends armored vehicles against incoming anti-tank missiles and rocket-propelled grenades, had just made history, successfully intercepting a threat in mid-air.

“For everyone who works in this field, and at Rafael, this incident really sharpens the essence of this system,” said Lurie.

Since 2011, Trophy has amassed more than one million operational hours and has saved many lives in combat. It is today installed on an ever-growing number of IDF Merkava tanks and Namer-type armored personnel carriers.

The system started out as a revolutionary defensive layer for armored vehicles, but Lurie made clear that as time went by, it has become an essential aspect of offense as well.

Using advanced radars, Trophy is able to identify the source of fire and intercept the threat. Since tank shells travel faster than missiles, there is also sufficient time for the tank to return fire, explaining how Trophy significantly boosts offense, not just defense, on the battlefield.

“For everyone who works in this field, and at Rafael, this incident really sharpens the essence of this system,” said Lurie.

Since 2011, Trophy has amassed more than one million operational hours and has saved many lives in combat. It is today installed on an ever-growing number of IDF Merkava tanks and Namer-type armored personnel carriers.

The system started out as a revolutionary defensive layer for armored vehicles, but Lurie made clear that as time went by, it has become an essential aspect of offense as well.

Using advanced radars, Trophy is able to identify the source of fire and intercept the threat. Since tank shells travel faster than missiles, there is also sufficient time for the tank to return fire, explaining how Trophy significantly boosts offense, not just defense, on the battlefield.

In addition, he said, three of his sons were in the military, including one still actively serving.

“Defending IDF soldiers is a personal matter for me. It is totally personal,” said Lurie. “I sent my eldest son on ‘Operation Protective Edge’ [Israel’s summer 2014 conflict with Hamas in Gaza]. Defending soldiers is the most basic concern for me. We are citizens of the State of Israel, and this is part of being a citizen.”

When these factors add up, the result is a “very strong connection and a deep understanding of needs,” said Lurie. “When the head of the Defense Ministry’s Tank and Armored Personnel Carrier Administration meets me, and brings up a new operational need, the conversation is between partners sharing the same problems, rather than suppliers and clients. Of course, there is also a business dimension. This creates unusual power. For many Rafael systems that we develop and produce, it gives us an edge.”

Trophy has over the years become an international platform, and two months ago, Rafael completed the supply of 400 systems for four Abram tank brigades of the U.S. military.

The system is installed on more than 10 different types of platforms worldwide.

“It is a major honor that the U.S. chose us, displaying faith in the system,” said Lurie. “The U.S. military held a series of extremely intensive tests. It checked Trophy in hundreds of scenarios and conditions, and found that, as Maj. Gen. David Basset, [the U.S. Army’s program executive officer for ground combat vehicles] said, ‘Trophy performs as advertised.’ ”

This coming summer, the U.S. military has invited Rafael to demonstrate a lighter version of the system, called Trophy VPS, on the American Stryker infantry carrier vehicle.

“We developed a lighter version for eight-by-eight wheeled vehicles,” explained Lurie. “To do this, we had to develop a version that is 60 percent of the weight and volume of the original system. It is called Trophy VPS.”

Beyond the IDF and U.S. military, there are a number of clients in Europe.

Around 2,000 systems have been ordered so far worldwide, of which almost 1,000 have been delivered in total.

Meanwhile, upgrades to the system’s radar, central computer and software are ongoing, meaning that Trophy has come a long way since its first 2011 debut.

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Yaakov Lappin is a military and strategic affairs correspondent. He also conducts research and analysis for defense think tanks, and is the Israel correspondent for IHS Jane's Defense Weekly. His book, The Virtual Caliphate, explores the online jihadist presence.