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Israeli armor saves American lives in Iraq

Posted By David Brinn On March 20, 2005 @ 11:00 pm In | No Comments

With Rafael’s reactive armor, the Bradley is better able to withstand a direct hit from a variety of anti-armor munitions, including shoulder-fired rocket propelled grenades.Israeli-developed armor that has been installed on American armored personnel carriers (APCs) in Iraq has saved “many lives”, according to a letter of recognition the US Army has sent to Rafael, the Israel Armament Development Authority.

The Bradley and 7AV APCs in the service of the US Army and the Marines, which play a central role in the armed operations in Iraq, have been fitted over the last year with armor by Rafael in partial cooperation with the American General Dynamics company, based in Burlington, Vermont.

A source in the company told ISRAEL21c that the letter stated, “When the fighting in Iraq was tough, and your product was urgently needed, you did everything you could to expedite production and delivery.”

The rush deliveries were part of the US military’s effort to slow the damage done by roadside mines, explosive charges and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), which have killed more than 150 U.S. troops in Iraq.

According to the Israeli paper Ma’ariv, one of the senior officials in the American defense establishment said explicitly: the Bradely is the best protected vehicle in Iraq.

Rafael received the $19.4 million order from the U.S. Army’s TACOM / ARDEC Picatinny Arsenal last year, covering procurement of 56 reactive armor vehicle sets and 170 partial sets for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The contract also included funding for the qualification and first-article testing of a product upgrade to further improve crew and vehicle survivability over the current design.

“They were trying to find American-made armor not something that comes from abroad,” said the Rafael source, but after much research found that Rafael’s was the most reliable.

According to Rafael’s web site, with the new reactive armor, the Bradley is better able to withstand a direct hit from a variety of anti-armor munitions, including shoulder-fired rocket propelled grenades, which are in abundant supply in many of today’s regional conflicts.

The armor is of the most advanced in the world: it is made up of passive protection, which is constructed of strong material that diverts the rocket, and of reactive protection, which is comprised of plates that contain explosives. The minute the rocket jet stream hits one of those plates the explosives go off, preventing the rocket from penetrating the APC.

The add-on armor consists of 105 tiles that attach to the sides, the turret and the front of each Bradley. The tiles, which look like small boxes, contain a special explosive charge that detonates when hit by a missile or rocket with a shaped-charge warhead. The resulting explosion disrupts the incoming, armor-penetrating gas jet produced by a RPG, for example, so the Bradley remains unharmed.

“The armor has minimal effect on the vehicle, it’s lightweight and easy to enter. Crews in the field can handle it easily,” the Rafael source told ISRAEL21c. “The active armor is also easy to handle – it can operate in extreme conditions and temperatures.”

“The idea is to apply chemical energy against chemical energy,” an official within Rafael told Defense News.. “These tiles contain a very special, insensitive explosive that is detonated only when hit by a missile or a rocket. For safety reasons, our armor does not react to other heat sources such as small arms or other fragments. When it detonates, the action of the elements inside the tiles interact with the incoming jet of the warhead, and defeats it.”

The US Army is thrilled with the results, according a release from the US Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems (PEO-GCS).

“Reactive armor has functioned very well. The soldiers in these (Bradley) units are excited about the product because it is providing a level of survivability that they previously didn’t have,” said Maj. John Conway, assistant product manager of Bradley systems for the PEO-GCS.

“All you have to do is read the news about the kinds of threats our soldiers are encountering and you immediately realize that these tiles are saving lives because they are defeating the threats they were designed to defeat,” Conway said, adding “for the foreseeable future, reactive armor is one of the best ways to defeat these kinds of threats.”

“The Bradley program manager told us he had no doubt that the Rafael reactive armor was saving lives in Iraq,” Rafael Chairman Jacob Toren told Defense News. “This is a proven capability; it’s not theoretical. It’s in full production at GDATP and here at Rafael.”

Rafael first began applying reactive armor technology immediately after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when the Israeli military realized its older-model tanks were vulnerable to missiles and rockets. Israel became the world’s first army to use reactive armor, but kept it secret until Syrian forces captured an Israeli tank in Lebanon.

Since then, Rafael has continuously improved its technology and applied it to numerous programs in Israel and abroad. The armored systems directorate official noted that Rafael provided add-on armor for the U.S. Marine Corps’ AAV7 amphibious assault vehicles used during major combat operations in Iraq earlier last year.

Rafael has been working with GDATP since 1994 to provide reactive armor sets for the U.S. Army Bradleys. The latest contracts for the improved sets bring total production orders to 605.

Rafael’s representative told ISRAEL21c “The result is a quality-proven product which has saved the lives of many Marines.”

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