Monday December 4, 03:05 PM
U.S. to test Israeli anti-RPG system for Iraq - source
By Dan Williams
TEL AVIV (Reuters) - An Israeli-made system designed to protect
tanks and troop transports from shoulder-fired rockets will be
tested by the Pentagon for possible use by U.S. forces in Iraq, a
senior Israeli defence source said on Monday.
While most of more than 2,800 deaths of U.S. service personnel in
Iraq have been caused by roadside bombs, military officials have
pledged to address the threat of rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs)
as part of long-term planning.
"Trophy" is described by its manufacturer, Rafael, as unique
because it uses a sensor to detect an incoming missile and fires
a projectile that destroys its warhead in mid-air. Rafael puts
the system's reliability rate at about 95 percent.
The Israeli defence source said the Pentagon was in the last
stage of ordering one for tests in the United States.
"The Department of Defence plans to test Trophy, perhaps on a
(U.S. Army) Stryker or another kind of vehicle, beginning in
April, and later on to field it in Iraq," the source, who spoke
on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.
Amit Zimmer, spokesman for the state-owned Israeli firm, declined
to comment on a possible U.S. purchase of Trophy. The U.S.
embassy in Tel Aviv could not immediately be reached for comment.
The U.S. news network NBC reported in September that the army had
decide to forgo Trophy in favour of a rival system under
development by U.S. arms firm Raytheon Co., although the latter
is not expected to be operational before 2010.
CONTROVERSY IN U.S.
The report aroused controversy in the United States for
suggesting that the Pentagon was motivated more by corporate
protectionism than the need to protect soldiers serving in Iraq.
However, a senior army officer, Major-General Jeffrey Sorenson,
said at the time that Trophy was not ready and did not meet the
requirements of a long-term, more comprehensive U.S. vehicle
defence project in the works involving Raytheon.
Another Israeli defence source familiar with Rafael's plans
projected the unit price of Trophy at between $250,000 and
$350,000 and said the system weighed about 700 kg (1,540 lbs).
The source said the prohibitive cost and bulk potentially could
be off-set by having vehicles travel in close groups so a Trophy
installed on one would provide protection for the rest.
Lova Drori, Rafael's vice-president of marketing, said
development of Trophy, which had been in the pipeline for at
least 15 years, was accelerated after Israel's war with Hezbollah
guerrillas in Lebanon earlier this year.
Dozens of Israeli tanks were destroyed or disabled by Hezbollah
RPGs or more sophisticated shoulder-fired missiles during the
34-day war, causing Israel's armoured corps its highest casualty
rate in almost a quarter-century of fighting.
Drori said the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) had submitted a
request for several dozen Trophy systems to be installed on
advanced battle tanks by the end of 2007, when some Israeli
analysts have forecast another war on the northern front.
An Israeli military spokeswoman had no immediate comment.
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