In a major sign that Israeli military technology is making more inroads in Europe, Germany’s Defense Ministry signed an agreement to equip the German military with the Trophy Active Protection System. Made by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Trophy has been protecting Israeli tanks for a decade and is also on the U.S. Abrams tanks since 2019.
Germany is a key supporter of Israel in Europe and Israel recently took delivery of the Sa’ar 6 Corvette warship from a German shipyard. Israel buys its submarines from Germany as well. “Once again, we see the appreciation that leading security institutions around the world have for Israel’s innovation and technology,” said Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz. He praised Trophy as life-saving technology and a groundbreaking system from Israel’s defense industry.
“Germany’s expression of confidence in an Israeli system emphasizes the important relationship and close cooperation between our countries and highlights the strength of Israel’s industries.”
The agreement announced on Tuesday is a government-to-government agreement. Israel has made other government-to-government deals in recent years. It announced it is buying the KC-46 tankers for its air force from the U.S. on February 22 and is looking for more helicopters from the U.S. as well. The Czech Republic is buying Israeli Elta radar in a deal announced in 2019. Israel’s IAI also sells its Elta subsidiary’s radar to Slovakia.
Germany will outfit its Leopard 2 tanks with Trophy. The program is led by the Directorate of Defense Research and Development, called MAFAT, in the Ministry of Defense and by Trophy developer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. Rafael has seen past success in Germany with its “glass battlefield” program. Former Air Force commander Maj. General Amir Eshel, who is now Director General of the Israel Ministry of Defense, signed the deal with the German Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service-Support.
A company of tanks will be outfitted at first according to the provisions of the contract. The systems will be delivered over the next several years. In the United States, Israel is outfitting brigades with the Trophy and hopes the successful program will lead to more acquisitions.
“This is a significant agreement, which further deepens the excellent relations between our countries. We thank the German Ministry of Defense for its expression of confidence in our defense establishment and in Israel’s industries. We are confident that the system will maximize the protection and capabilities of Germany’s main battle tanks (MBTs),” said the head of the Directorate of Research and Development in the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Brig. Gen. Yaniv Rotem. The German counterparts said they are looking forward to receiving Trophy.
Dr. Ran Gozali, Executive Vice-President and Head of Rafael’s Land and Naval Systems Division, said that “Germany is joining a group of nations who have chosen the Trophy to protect their troops and assets from the ever-increasing threat of anti-armor warfare.”
The decade-long success story of Trophy is one of many Israeli technologies that are now getting wider international recognition from the most advanced western militaries and North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries. For many years Israel pioneered some niche innovations, such as surveillance drones in the 1980s, and Israel has excelled at targeting, artificial intelligence, electro-optics and other innovations. However, the delivery of two Iron Dome batteries to the United States in the 2020 and early 2021, as well as the Trophy sale, shows how Israel’s defense technology is reaching new heights. The Elta radars are also part of this story. Israel has been quietly assembling the most sophisticated air defense systems and some of the best sensors available in the world. This was made possible by Israel needing to meet unique challenges, from confronting Iranian ballistic missiles to dealing with terror insurgencies.
In recent years, especially since the Gulf War in 1990 and then the 2006 war in Lebanon, Israel transformed its army. It seeks now to totally dominate the battlefield using technology, rather than bludgeon enemies or face off against them in tit-for-tat battles. Iron Dome made Israel secure against rocket threats, while Trophy makes it so tanks don’t have to fear threats as in the past. This is a long learning curve and the battle is always to make the technology one step ahead of enemy innovations.
For instance, stopping rockets is one thing, but stopping drones and maneuvering precision guided munitions is an additional capability. Detecting drone threats is also important, as Saudi Arabia learned in 2019 when its Abqaiq facility was attacked. Tanks need to be protected against missiles, but the recent Azerbaijan-Armenia war also reveals they need protection against drones and other threats. With countries like Turkey, China, Iran and Russia all moving forward with new technologies, from kamikaze drones in Iran, to new drones in Turkey, and missile systems in China, the battle for the defense systems of the future is always being waged in defense company factories and defense ministries around the world.
Seth J. Frantzman is a Jerusalem-based journalist who holds a Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis and a writing fellow at Middle East Forum. He is the author of After ISIS: America, Iran and the Struggle for the Middle East (Gefen Publishing) and Drone Wars: Pioneers, Killing Machines, Artificial Intelligence, and the Battle for the Future (Forthcoming, Bombardier Books). Follow him on Twitter at @sfrantzman.