Saturday, 15 September 2012

"Rafael is developing capabilities for improving maneuverability"

Giora Katz, VP of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, reveals new strategy and measures under development in the ground field

"Rafael is developing a series of new capabilities designed to support the overland maneuverability of the IDF,” explains Giora Katz in an interview with IsraelDefense. Katz, the VP for Rafael’s Land & Naval Systems Division, is responsible for the development of a series of land combat systems and for projects like the Protector unmanned naval patrol vehicle.

Katz reveals that the land projects Rafael choses to invest in are not random. “We are developing land capabilities that will facilitate land maneuverability in battle. This ranges from the ability to protect armored vehicles and offensive vehicles that take part in the maneuvering battle.” He further explains that “firing capabilities include missiles, and all of these resources are the outcome of a joint, unified concept, intended to enable overland maneuverability.”

Offensive Measures

As far as offensive measures are concerned, Katz says that the development of remotely operated weapon stations will be a primary element in Rafael’s activities in the coming years, including the company’s export efforts. At the 2012 Eurosatory International Exhibition in Paris, Rafael introduced two new weapon station models. One is a weapons station adapted specifically for 14.5 mm caliber heavy machine guns of eastern European manufacture. The other is an innovative station in which weapons can be reloaded from inside the fighting compartment of the AFV on which it is mounted.

So far, all remote weapon stations necessitate that the operator reach out of the fighting compartment and expose a portion of his body to reload the weapon.
Rafael developed this station so that the weapon fitted to it can be reloaded from inside the fighting compartment, using a round magazine into which ammunition can be added. Reloading from inside the vehicle enables almost continuous fire, without risking the crew. In addition, the relatively easy procedure has no adverse effect on the on-going performance of crewmembers, even in difficult combat situations.

Protective Measures

In the field of protection, Rafael developed a series of new measures, including the Thor system, which is designed to neutralize explosive charges using a laser beam. Other systems are intended to cope with mines scattered on the ground. Another innovative project protects forces from mortar fire and short-range rockets by using a laser beam. This system was designed to provide short-range protection that is similar to the missile and rocket protection provided by the Iron Dome and David’s Sling.

Rafael is also developing passive protection measures and a Trophy active protection system for vehicles. This effort includes the adaptation of Rafael’s active protection systems for installation on light vehicles, thereby satisfying the demand for such protective measures, which provide an alternative for heavy passive armored protection. Rafael anticipates that in the coming years, the demand for such systems will increase dramatically.

According to Katz, based on talks conducted by Rafael at Eurosatory, there is a global need to protect light vehicles. “Loading passive armored protection panels on vehicles is impossible, as the vehicle would simply not be able to move as a result of the excessive weight,” explains Katz. “The solution is to provide those vehicles with scaleddown models of the Trophy system. This system detects a threat and launches an interception measure against it. The system is currently manufactured in three basic models – model HV is already installed on the Merkava tanks; model MV is intended for larger vehicles, including light AFVs; and model LV is intended for light vehicles like the Humvee, or even lighter.” Katz adds, “The recognition of the need for active protection for light vehicles is gradually shared by numerous military organizations around the world. The process that takes place here is similar to the one that took place in the past with regard to UAVs. In the beginning, many people thought they were toys, but now, every military organization wants them.”

Not all capabilities that Rafael develops for maneuverability can be publicized. However, the measures in question do include electro-optical systems, along with other technologies. Generally, Rafael has been identified with systems in other fields, such as air-to-air missiles, and not necessarily with land systems. While Katz admits that this is correct, he explains that Rafael is “a strong organization growing stronger through capabilities that complement overland maneuverability. We have positioned it high on our list of priorities, and our activities are definitely not random choices, but stem from the overall concept that puts maneuverability back at the center.”

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