In 2018, the Army awarded Leonardo DRS a US$193 million contract to equip the service’s M1A2 main battle tanks with the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems-developed Trophy APS. Credit: US Army.

US forces in Europe are featuring a new Israeli technology that will make them less vulnerable to attack, according to a report in Task and Purpose.

US Army M1 Abrams tanks deployed to Europe are now packing a battle-tested Israeli-made active protection system designed to thwart Russian anti-tank missiles.

Photos released on July 10 ahead of the second phase of the Army’s Defense Europe exercise show an M1 Abrams main battle tank rocking an Israeli-made Trophy Active Protection System (APS) as the vehicle is loaded onto a heavy equipment transport at the Bergen-Hohne Training Area in Germany, the report said.

According to a US Army Europe spokesman, the 18th Military Police Brigade drew, installed and fielded the Trophy system from the Army Prepositioned Stock onto eight M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks at the training area earlier this month.

Trophy APS is designed to intercept and destroy incoming anti-armor missiles and other guided rockets “with a shotgun-like blast,” according to Army Recognition, which first reported the fielding of the system, the report said.

In 2018, the Army awarded Leonardo DRS a US$193 million contract to equip the service’s M1A2 main battle tanks with the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems-developed Trophy APS to provide “a high level of performance, safety, and life-cycle affordability.”

The Trophy system “works by using radar to provide continuous 360-degree protection of the vehicle,” according to The National Interest. “Once a threat is detected, the system launches a ‘tight pattern of explosively formed penetrators’ that destroys the incoming round before impact.”

The Trophy system can also trace the origin of hostile fire to locate a potential adversary, allowing a tank crew to almost immediately return fire, the report said.

The Trophy APS system (circled) works by using radar to provide continuous 360-degree protection of the vehicle. Credit: US Army.

First deployed on Israel’s Merkava tanks in 2011, Rafael says that the Trophy APS is the only combat-proven system of its kind currently in service, although Star and Stripes reports that multiple countries — including China, Ukraine and South Korea — are developing similar systems.

But does it work?

Russian news agency TASS claimed that an Israeli source told it that Israel’s Trophy APS won’t work against Russian weapons, National Interest reported.

The source, identified only as a member of the Israeli defense industry, spoke to TASS at the ISDEF 2019 defense trade show in Tel Aviv.

“The Trophy system proved its high effectiveness in repelling single launches of anti-tank missiles and rocket grenades, including launches from different directions,” the source said.

“However, the active protection system still can’t sustain fighting two or three anti-tank munitions launched at a minimum interval. This technology is used in Russia’s latest systems, for example, the upgraded Kornet [anti-tank missile] system and single-use grenade launchers.”

Of course, by trashing Trophy, Russia is essentially trashing the centerpiece of the US military’s strategy to protect its armored vehicles from anti-tank weapons.

 The Pentagon is concerned about the proliferation of anti-tank rockets because such weapons have even appeared in the hands of militias such as Hezbollah, which used missiles like the Kornet to batter Israeli armor in the 2006 Lebanon War.

The fact is that any defense system can be overwhelmed: fire enough ICBMs or anti-tank missiles, and the defenses will be saturated. 

Still, while APS doesn’t make an armored vehicle invulnerable, it does offer the fighting chance of shooting down incoming missiles, and tracking the perpetrator.

According to analysts, how well Israel’s APS can cope with multiple-missile salvos will probably depend on factors such as prioritizing threats, and carrying a greater number of defensive rounds.

Trophy APS system on a US Army M1 Abrams tank. Credit: US Army.