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Thursday, September 07, 2006

US Army shuns Israeli system to combat RPGs

More than 130 US troops in Iraq have been killed by RPG fire. Last night, NBC Nightly News looked into the question of why an Israeli anti-RPG system called Trophy is not being used by the United States in Iraq (and Afghanistan for that matter). If I were a parent of an American soldier in Iraq, I'd be very ticked off about this.

Hat Tip: New York Nana
Last year, a special Pentagon unit thought it found a solution in Israel — a high-tech system that shoots RPGs out of the sky. But in a five-month exclusive investigation, NBC News has learned from Pentagon sources that that help for U.S. troops is now in serious jeopardy.

The system is called “Trophy,” and it is designed to fit on top of tanks and other armored vehicles like the Stryker now in use in Iraq.

Trophy works by scanning all directions and automatically detecting when an RPG is launched. The system then fires an interceptor — traveling hundreds of miles a minute — that destroys the RPG safely away from the vehicle.

Israeli military, which recently lost a number of tanks and troops to RPGs, is rushing to deploy the system.

Trophy is the brainchild of Rafael, Israel’s Armament Development Authority, which has conducted more than 400 tests and found that the system has “well above [a] 90 percent” probability of killing RPGs and even more sophisticated anti-tank weapons, according to reserve Col. Didi Ben Yoash, who helped develop the system. Ben Yoash says he is “fully confident” that Trophy can save American lives.

And officials with the Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation (OFT) agree. Created in 2001 by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, OFT acts as an internal “think tank” for the Pentagon and is supposed to take a more entrepreneurial — and thereby less bureaucratic — approach to weapons procurement and other defense issues, and to get help to troops in the field more quickly. OFT officials subjected Trophy to 30 tests and found that it is “more than 98 percent” effective at killing RPGs.

An official involved with those tests told NBC that Trophy “worked in every case. The only anomaly was that in one test, the Trophy round hit the RPG’s tail instead of its head. But according to our test criteria, the system was 30 for 30.”

As a result, OFT decided to buy several Trophies — which cost $300,000-$400,000 each — for battlefield trials on Strykers in Iraq next year.

That plan immediately ran into a roadblock: Strong opposition from the U.S. Army. Why? Pentagon sources tell NBC News that the Army brass considers the Israeli system a threat to an Army program to develop an RPG defense system from scratch.

The $70 million contract for that program had been awarded to an Army favorite, Raytheon. Raytheon’s contract constitutes a small but important part of the Army’s massive modernization program called the Future Combat System (FCS), which has been under fire in Congress on account of ballooning costs and what critics say are unorthodox procurement practices.

Col. Donald Kotchman, who heads the Army’s program to develop an RPG defense, acknowledges that Raytheon’s system won’t be ready for fielding until 2011 at the earliest.

That timeline has Trophy’s supporters in the Pentagon up in arms. As one senior official put it, “We don’t really have a problem if the Army thinks it has a long-term solution with Raytheon. But what are our troops in the field supposed to do for the next five or six years?”

Kotchman, however, says the Army is doing everything prudent to provide for the protection and safety of U.S. forces and insists the Israeli system is not ready to be deployed by the U.S. “Trophy has not demonstrated its capability to be successfully integrated into a system and continue to perform its wartime mission,” he says.

That claim, however, is disputed by other Pentagon officials as well as internal documents obtained by NBC News. In an e-mail, a senior official writes: “Trophy is a system that is ready — today... We need to get this capability into the hands of our warfighters ASAP because: (1) It will save lives!”

Officials also tell NBC News that according to the Pentagon’s own method of measuring a weapons system’s readiness, Trophy is “between a 7 and an 8” out of a possible score of 9. Raytheon’s system is said to be a “3.”

So why would the Army block a solution that might help troops?

“There are some in the Army who would be extremely concerned that if the Trophy system worked, then the Army would have no need to go forward with the Raytheon system and the program might be terminated,” says Steven Schooner, who teaches procurement law at both George Washington University and the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s School.

Trophy’s supporters inside the Pentagon are more blunt. As one senior official told NBC News, “This debate has nothing, zero, to do with capability or timeliness. It’s about money and politics. You’ve got a gigantic program [FCS] and contractors with intertwined interests. Trophy was one of the most successful systems we’ve tested, and yet the Army has ensured that it won’t be part of FCS and is now trying to prevent it from being included on the Strykers” that OFT planned to send to Iraq.
Previously on Israel Matzav: US fighting vehicles to be equipped with Israeli anti-RPG technology

To watch Trophy in action, go here.


At 3:44 AM, Blogger Lois Koenig said...


Thanks for the hat tip. This series of articles has me livid. To think that Israel has a superior system in the Trophy available, and yet the US Army wants to develop it's own, that might be ready in 2011, and is trying their best to stop the purchase, which should have already been finalized? I was surprised that NBC would carry this, which in and of itself shows just how important it is that the purchase go through.

What you wrote:

'If I were a parent of an American soldier in Iraq, I'd be very ticked off about this.'

is the bottom line. I would like to see them explain to the families why they are doing this.

Raytheon? Feh. I remember it in its' better days, along Rte. 128 and the North Shore of Boston. I hope the series embarrasses the US Army into doing what should be done: immediately buying the Trophy from Israel.

BTW, The Dems are trying so hard right now to have Sec. Rumsfeld stand down.

To allow this to be done to the troops in Iraq? Despicable.

I wish I had my list of Israel's accomplishments in developing superior systems handy, not only for the military, but in medicine, and every form of technology.

At 7:23 PM, Blogger Rupert Hippo said...

This fiasco literally sounds like something out of Dilbert. Maybe the Pointy-Haired Boss now works for the Petagon...

At 8:56 PM, Blogger M. Simon said...

Track back:

American Army Rejets Trophy

The US Army is rejecting the Tropy System of vehicle defence against RPGs. Why are they rejecting it? Because defence contractor Raytheon has a $70 million contract to develop a similar system in 2011 or there abouts.


I worked for Raytheon in the late 60s on the Air Traffic Control Route System. Only now being retired.


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