Defense Ministry Halts Funding for APC Protection System

The Defense Ministry has recently decided to stop funding the development of a system meant to protect armored personnel carriers from anti-armor missiles and anti-tank rounds.

It remains unclear how this decision will affect plans to better protect APCs, though a competing system is also available.

After the 2006 Second Lebanon War, during which Hezbollah militants hit tanks and APCs with anti-armor missiles, the Israel Defense Forces decided to accelerate the development and production of systems meant to protect armored vehicles.

Israel Military Industries was given initial funding worth nearly NIS 20 million to evaluate the feasibility of Iron Fist, the system whose funding has been cut off, and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems was contracted to develop an active protection system called Trophy.

The Defense Ministry view was that investing in two active protection systems initially made sense as a way of expediting development, but only so long as the technology had not yet matured. But as Trophy neared completion, the ministry decided to cancel additional funding for Iron Fist, because of the cost and concerns that development would last a long time.

The Iron Fist Active Protection System is one of several technologies that will be evaluated for use at a later point, Defense Ministry officials said.

IMI told Haaretz that "Iron Fist has technological advantages which are unique and not available elsewhere in the world, and IMI will continue development of the system."

Iron Fist uses electro-optical sensors to detect incoming missiles, and fires buckshot-like pellets to intercept them after calculating the missile's distance from the vehicle and the direction it is coming from.

About 18 months ago, Maj. Gen. Dan Harel, the deputy chief of staff at the time, said the IDF's new heavy APC, the Tiger, would be equipped with the Iron Fist system.

The Defense Ministry's reversal reflects the adoption of a recommendation of experts that it stop financing Iron Fist. The recommendation came after Israel Military Industries requested additional funding to develop it as an autonomous defense system for APCs.