The Israeli Ministry of Defense recently announced via social media post that an agreement reached between the German Ministry of Defense and Israel’s Rafael defense technology company to mate their Trophy active protection system to Leopard 2 tanks. “The Israel Ministry of Defense and German Federal Ministry of Defense signed a G-to-G agreement to supply @RAFAELdefense TROPHY active protection system to the German military for their fleet of LEOPARD 2 tanks,” the post stated.
The Leopard 2 represents what is currently the pinnacle of German tank design and is considered one of the most capable European tanks currently in production. It is in service not just with the German Bundeswehr but also with a dozen other European countries, and even including some non-Europeans and non-NATO members like Chile, Indonesia, and Singapore.
Though the IDF announced the deal on social media just recently, its announcement comes on the heels of an earlier German Ministry of Defense press release announcing a German parliamentary decision to earmark funds for procuring the Rafael Trophy active protection system. But what is the Trophy system?
Rafael’s Trophy is essentially the fusion of a radar detection system with a large explosive blast of interceptor projectiles. When incoming enemy anti-tank fire—be it an RPG, anti-tank guided missile, or high-explosive anti-tank projectile—is detected, interceptor projectiles are shot outward to intercept and destroy the projectile before it can strike, in effect creating a bubble of protection around a vehicle.
It won’t be as simple as just bolting on the system and driving off though, seemingly extensive modifications would be needed to mate the Israeli active protection system to the German tanks.
The German Ministry of Defense outlined what would be needed to make the Trophy system a success, stating that “The protection system will also be fitted on a test vehicle for developmental support. To this end, the hulls of the vehicles will have to be replaced in order to integrate the additional power supply required.” Spares and training would be needed as well. “In addition, the necessary spare parts, ammunition and also transport and storage containers will be ordered. The training of the soldiers as crew and maintenance personnel will also be part of the contracts.”
Renderings released by the IDF of German Leopard 2 tanks show Trophy radar panels mated to the tank’s turret on either side of the main gun. And it’s not just the Germans who are experimenting with the Israeli technology: the United States has explored using Trophy to protect their Abrams main battle tanks as well.
Caleb Larson is a defense writer with the National Interest. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.