Israeli defence equipment maker Rafale has announced the completion of its TROPHY active protection system tests on the German Leopard 2 tanks.
“Last week, the government procurement office of Germany, in cooperation with the Israel Ministry of Defense, and supported by Rafael and KMW, completed a series of challenging live firing tests of the TROPHY on the LEOPARD 2 tank, which was integrated into the German services after a government-to-government agreement was reached in February,” said the company release.
In February 2021, German arms maker Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) was contracted to install the Israeli TROPHY protection system on the German LEOPARD 2 main battle tanks.
“The system is capable of destroying incoming projectiles before they hit a tank. Together with the Israeli manufacturer Rafael, KMW has adapted the TROPHY system to the LEOPARD 2 A7 and tested it together with the BAAINBw and the German user,” wrote the company in February release.
“In addition to installation, the contract also includes training and services… The integration of TROPHY will be completed in 2023,” adds the release.
TROPHY APS has been installed on the newly built chassis of the Leopard 2 A7 standard and the Leopard 2 A6 A3. In its press release, KMW refers to the new name Leopard 2 A7A1.
A total of 17 Leopard Tanks are to be equipped with Trophy APS.
The lack of standoff protection systems on the German battle tank has been a known weakness for years. In January 2017, a Turkish Leopard tank was destroyed by IS forces. Germany plans to field the Trophy integrated Leopard 2’s with NATO requirements.
The Leopard 2 is the primary weapon of the Bundeswehr in the war against mechanized and armoured enemy forces. The crew of the Leopard 2 can activate or deactivate the TROPHY system at any time, depending on the threat and order situation.
So far, there has only been passive protection for the Leopard Tanks, to put it simply, thick armour plates with high-tech material or attached explosive tiles as so-called reactive armour. The advantage of the active protection systems is that they are lighter than armour plates. The Leopard battle tank is already weighing up to 80 tons.
Experts agree that the leopard will have to remain in service for another decade or two. It is not expected to be retired until 2035, when a new battle tank, to be developed as part of the “Main Ground Combat System” (MGCS) project promoted by Germany and France, is expected to be fielded.
In the future, the German Army is expected to field about 400 Leopard Tanks.
TROPHY Active Protection System
Developed by Rafael in a response to the anti-armour attacks, the TROPHY APS protects the vehicle against rocket and missile attacks and simultaneously locates the origin of the enemy fire for immediate response. As per the maker, TROPHY is the only fully-integrated, combat-proven APS globally. Israel Defense Forces’ Merkava tanks have been equipped with TROPHY system since 2010. Israel’s Namer APCs too sport the system. TROPHY is also installed on four US Army Abrams MBT brigades.
Trophy essentially consists of four components. Flat AESA radar sensors capture the battlefield scenario around the tank and approaching objects. The evaluation and fire control electronics classify the objects and assess whether they pose a threat to the tank. If so, the active agent launchers are aimed at the target. A project-forming charge (Multiple Explosively Formed Projectile, MEFP) is fired as a countermeasure, which neutralizes the threat at an optimal level distance so that no significant damage is caused to the vehicle. The fourth component is the energy supply in the specially adapted armoured chassis.
German company Rheinmetall too, has developed an Active Defence System for armoured vehicles. Hard-kill active protection system or ADS StrikeShield has seen export success, but the Germans have opted for the Israeli APS. StrikeShield, strictly speaking, is not the equivalent of TROPHY, which is a much heavier and more expensive system designed to protect heavy tanks. The German ADS, a lighter one, is designed to protect vehicles, potentially lighter armoured vehicles.
Russian Arena system
The Russians have been protecting their tanks with Arena APS since the 1990’s years and are pioneers in the field of “active systems”. For example, if an anti-tank missile travels at a speed of 250 meters per second, the Arena system ejects a cassette from the tank a few meters before the target hits, and a shower of splinters is triggered. These splinters have a speed of up to 2000 meters per second and damage or destroy the approaching projectile.