We have discussed Active Protection Systems many times before, but it is another thing seeing one work operationally. The video below depicts a Merkava IV tank being fired on in Gaza by an RPG, with Trophy intercepting and destroying the explosive projectile before it could plow through the tank's side armor.
Operation Protective Edge is really Trophy's first operational debut. So far it is said that the system has intercepted no less than five explosive projectiles fired at Israeli tanks.
Much like its much larger Iron Dome cousin, Trophy, which is called Windbreaker locally, tracks objects rapidly approaching the vehicle it is mounted on via an array of fixed radar antennas placed around the vehicle. The system automatically predicts the objects trajectory and then instantly aims a launcher that fires a canister of ball bearings at high speed directly at the object.
The idea is that trophy will detonate or disable the enemy munition before its high-explosive anti-tank warhead can send its molten spray into the vehicle's hull. The whole event is fully automated and happens in mere seconds. or even a fraction of a second if the projectile is fired at very close range. After the intercept has occurred, Trophy's display panel gives the occupants of the vehicle the precise location where the attack emanated from.
The Trophy system, designed and built by Israeli defense giants Elta and Rafael, has been honed for over a decade, and it is said to be so reliable that troops can now operate close to the sides of the tank with little chance that the system's shotgun-like projectiles will hit them as the intercept takes place at an ample distance from the vehicle itself.
Trophy is built not just to counter RPG's and recoilless rifles, but also anti-tank missiles, such as those fired out of the cannons of Russian main battle tanks. It is rumored that Trophy can also work against air-launched anti-tank missiles, even those that fly a "top down" attack profile.
If Trophy proves to save many more lives and vehicles during this campaign, its export demand may increase drastically, as other nations have looked closely at purchasing the system in the past. In the US, defense contractor General Dynamics has paired with Trophy's designers to build a modular version of Trophy known as Bright Arrow. This system uses a centralized remote weapons turret and can be mounted even on lightly armored vehicles.
Seeing operational videos like the one above that show Trophy in action does solidify one thing- active protection systems have come of age. It is really too bad that America did not have such a system in Iraq as it could have potentially saved many lives.
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com