05 December 2006

Trophy - better late than never

Haaretz reports that IDF brass has finally made up their minds on the Trophy - the anti-anti-tank missile system.

The Israel Defense Forces will begin equipping its tanks with an advanced, active protection system capable of countering the latest anti-tank missiles. The locally developed system, known by its export name as Trophy, will be installed on Merkava Mark IV tanks, partly in response to the experience of the recent war in Lebanon.
This is rather good news. However, this belated decision raises a couple of questions:
The Rafael Armament Development Authority offered Trophy to the IDF several years ago, but the suggestion was turned down then due to other budgetary priorities. The cost of installing the system on a single tank is estimated to be $200,000-$300,000, if a significant quantity is acquired.
An additional investment of $200,000-$300,000 to save our soldiers in situations that we have seen in Lebanon does not seem like going overboard. So why that decision was not taken earlier, when it was not yet late?

The cost of Merkava 4 (rough estimate) is between $4M and $5M (about half of the cost of comparable US tank), so, even as a matter of economics, addition of that amount to save a tank is not unreasonable.

Speaking about economics, there was another failure related to the strange decision to delay the ordering and installing of Trophy - a failure to persuade US Army that this is a superior solution:
September 2006: The US Army opted to pursue a different system. Earlier in 2006, Raytheon received a development contract to demonstrate and develop the Quick Kill APS, to be integrated into the future FCS systems.

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey A, Sorenson, the Army's deputy for acquisition and systems management explained the decision (AFPS) saying the Israeli system is not a "produceable item." The Israelis have been working on the Trophy system for 10 or 11 years, Sorenson said. "If this thing was ready to go, my question would be, why wasn't it on the particular tanks that went into Lebanon?" he said. No Israeli Merkava tanks carried the Trophy system, he said.
Granted, the failure to sell the system to another armed force is way below the failure to protect our soldiers on the scale of importance. Still, it is a failure. Granted, Gen. Sorenson's reasoning is an example of Army brass logic and could be criticized easily, but the point is that the general asks a valid question here. Why indeed?

Maybe it is time to ask the person who was our finance minister a few questions? And a few other people in the Defense Ministry as well.

Cross-posted on Yourish.com