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Analysis: Rafael unveils armor

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Leah Krauss
Haifa, Israel (UPI) Aug 30, 2007
Rafael Armament Development Authority, one of Israel's largest defense firms, has unveiled its next-generation "add-on armor technology" for combat vehicles: the Multi-Threat Armor Protection System.

"We anticipate the successful integration of M-TAPS in the MRAP II (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles) and MPV programs," Nehemia Shachar, the company's head of the Protection Systems Sector of the Ordinance and Protection Division, said via a company statement.

He added that the installed system can deflect rocket-propelled grenades, improvised explosive devices, explosively formed projectiles, "high-speed fragments from artillery bombs and armor-piercing projectiles from heavy machine guns."

These "make up the majority of threats to troop vehicles in Iraq, Afghanistan and in other current conflicts," Shachar noted.

Shachar told UPI in a telephone interview that the company expects to sell the system, which is integrated into the combat vehicle itself, to "everyone," especially "coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan."

"The earlier (armor) product was a lower level of protection," Shachar said, so the company worked to upgrade the system, which provides protection for trucks as well as combat vehicles.

The M-TAPS armor is the only product of its kind currently on the market, Shachar told UPI.

As early as 2004, RPG attacks plagued soldiers and diplomats stationed in Iraq: "Attacks have become so frequent the U.S. Embassy ordered the road off-limits to American Embassy personnel Thursday. The British Embassy issued a similar order earlier in the week," USA TODAY reported in December of that year.

"The 7-mile stretch of road has become the most dangerous road in Iraq, despite 19 months and millions of dollars spent on security," the report continued.

Earlier this year U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the No. 2 general in Iraq at the time, told the newspaper that Iran has been funneling RPGs, Katyusha rockets and EFPs to Iraqi insurgents.

According to the company, M-TAPS has undergone extensive testing at the firm's facilities and by the Israel Defense Forces.

"M-TAPS ... is an upgrade of Rafael's ... Insensitive Reactive Armor system that has been successfully applied to the U.S. Bradleys (armored fighting vehicles), IDF vehicles and a variety of NATO APCs (armored personnel carriers)," according to Rafael.

An expert on the technology at the company did not immediately respond to a reporter's questions.

Another Israeli company announced a new combat technology development earlier this month: Israel Military Industries said it had "completed the development of the Urban Fighter -- an upgraded, up-armored M113 armored personnel carrier designed for urban warfare and low-intensity conflict scenarios."

"Unlike the previous version of the upgraded M113, the Urban Fighter requires only a minor automotive upgrade, which significantly reduces its cost and is designed as a kit that could be installed on an M113 within a few days," according to IMI.

"In 2004, IMI and Rafael ... developed a heavier version of an upgraded M113, dubbed Maoz, which required a full automotive replacement. The IDF initially considered procuring it but eventually rejected the project for budgetary reasons," IMI said. Maoz is Hebrew for "refuge," or a military stronghold.

Like Rafael's M-TAPS armor, IMI's Urban Fighter features a hybrid armor developed from the company's Iron Wall technology.

"It is designed to protect (against) heavy machine guns and most forms of improvised explosive device, such as explosively formed projectiles and explosively formed fragments," according to a company statement. "In addition, the Urban Fighter uses improved slat armor to protect from rocket-propelled grenades."

IMI said the raised area for the vehicle driver gives him or her 360-degree visibility and provides for safer driving in urban areas -- "features hitherto unavailable in APCs."

The IDF received a prototype for testing in June, IMI said.

Rafael and IMI were both recently named among the Top 100 defense companies in the world by the American industry publication Defense News. Rafael's sales, according to the rankings, were nearly $1.1 billion, while IMI made the rankings with sales of $481.6 million.

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