The first upgraded Iron Dome unit is scheduled for delivery to the Israel Air Force ‘within weeks’, following a successful series of intercepts where the system demonstrated the enhanced capabilities against advanced threats. Photo: Shaul Golan via RAFAEL
The Defense Research and Development Division of the Ministry of Defense successfully completed trials testing the upgraded operational capability of the ‘Iron Dome’ system. In the past few days, the Israel’s Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) has been carrying out a series of intercept trials with the upgraded system where the enhanced system successfully met the design goals. These trials are designed to expand and improve the operational capabilities of the system to face more advanced threats. These trials are part of a wider program to develop and upgrade the ‘Iron Dome’ system. Based on the successful trials, MOD plans to deliver the fifth operational ‘Iron Dome’ battery ‘within weeks’. According to the MOD, this unit will be the first upgraded ‘Iron Dome’ battery in the IAF. Most upgrades will also be retrofitted to the four operational units. The fifth and sixth units are part of the second production batch of four Iron Dome units funded by the US DoD in May 2011.
RAFAEL, the system developer and integrator, has implemented improvements and modifications to operational systems since the first deployments of the systems in March 2011. Software ‘patches’ changes are introduced frequently after combat engagements, implementing necessary improvements where required. More comprehensive software upgrades are also implemented on a periodical basis to keep the system updated. The current ‘Block Upgrade’ enabled the developers to implement more robust upgrades enhancing the system based on more comprehensive and thoroughly tested upgrade cycle. Major contributors to the system’s enhanced engagement capabilities are the improved radar developed by IAI/Elta Systems and battle management system developed by mPrest.
IMDO – also known as ‘Homa’ – is part of the Defense Research and Development Division of the Ministry of Defense, and is responsible for the multi-level missile defense systems. These include the ‘Iron Dome’ counter Rocket, Artillery and Missile (C-RAM) system and ballistic missile interceptor system ‘Arrow 2′, both already operational, and ‘David’s Sling’ (also dubbed ‘Magic Wand’) and ‘Arrow 3′ currently in various phases of developmental testing. Both are scheduled to undergo comprehensive integration testing in the near future.
Safetank, an explosion-proof self sealing fuel tank for vehicles from Rodgard uses self-sealing and insulating foam and flame retardant coating to protect the tank from explosion under fire.
Fires in combat vehicles can be caused by combat damage (hit by enemy fire, IEDs or a fire bomb thrown at it) or accidentally, by the crew or by malfunction. Regardless of the cause, fire erupting in the engine or fighting compartment can cause significant damage, leading to catastrophic effect if the ammunition begins to explodes. To quickly put out such fires, automatic fire suppression systems are used, employing different methods in each zone – crew compartment, engine, tires, fuel tank, battery or outer envelope. Multi-zone systems are important to minimize subjecting the crew and passengers to toxic fumes of smoke and fire extinguishing materials.
For example, the use of ‘Clean Agent’ that effectively suppress the fire and prevents explosion, but requires rapid evacuation of the crew. Operations in asymmetric warfare often expose vehicles to fire hazards from molotov cocktails or IEDs that do not penetrate the armor. Therefore, having a fire suppression system that mandate the evacuation of the protected vehicle poses an unnecessary risk.
To equip MRAP and other tactical vehicles Nitrogen based (N2) and water-vapour fire suppression are employed to quickly choke out the fire without affecting the human occupants. Alternatively, water mist can be used to suppress fire and keep temperature down, allowing the crew more time to respond.
Particularly effective in protecting security and law enforcement vehicles as well as the military, operating in asymmetric conflict, are fire suppression for vulnerable parts such as fuel tanks and tires. The Israeli company LVT has developed tire fire suppression system combined into AAFS installed in MRAP-type vehicles. LVT has delivered over 3,000 fire suppression systems protecting MaxxPro MRAP vehicles. Typically, such systems equip the crew compartment with fire suppression agents to shield crew, provides outer body protection, against fire bombs and explosives and uses high performance extinguishing agent to protect the tires in case they catch fire. Separated from the crew compartment the engine and Battery compartments are protected by a clean agent fire suppression system. Fuel tank protected against fire caused by Molotov cocktails or IEDs.
Vulnerable elements of the vehicle, such as hydraulics or fuel tanks, require special attention in armor protection. At the recent AUSA 2012 exhibition Hutchinsons’ Rodgard Mobility Solutions unveiled several new systems protecting fuel tanks from small arms fire and shrapnel and punctures caused by artillery and mortar fire, mines or IEDs. For example, the Safetank system seals the damaged tank, maintaining the veicle’s mobility and reducing the risk of sympathetic explosion of ammo and eliminating loss of fuel or the risk of potential ignition of spilled fuel.
In addition to Safetank, Rodgard has developed an innovative fire suppression method for protecting external fuel tanks. The capsules ruptured by the blast disperse the flame retardant liquid to suppress the flame caused by explosions.
Safetank is applied as a coating around the container, protecting against small arms fire of up to 7.62 NATO/AP, 50 cal/12.7mm and 14.5 mm rounds. Moreover, the tank itself can be filled with anti-explosion foam or mesh inserts to minimize risks of electrical short circuits igniting vapor explosions. An outer layer of flame retardant prevents fires from spreading, eliminating overheating of the fuel in the protected container. The use of Safetank eliminates the need to protect fuel tanks with much heavier armor plates, thus saving up to 100 kg per vehicle. It can also protect large tankers transporting up to 5,000 gallons.