Germany plans to equip one tank company with Rafael Trophy Active Protection Systems (APS) to better protect a rapid reaction force it plans to deploy as part NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF). German officials confirmed the news at the International Armored Vehicles forum (#IAVevent) in London this week.

The unit is expected to receive the Trophy systems in 2022, is expected to join the VJTF in 2023. The Bundeswehr operates 328 Leopard II tanks of three types – the 2A6, 2A6M, and 2A7 types, currently being upgraded. As the German Army (Bundeswehr) has not yet designated the unit, therefore, the type of Leopard II tank to receive Trophy is yet to be determined.

Trophy has yet to be integrated with the Leopard II tank. Previous work was done on Leopard II tanks few years ago. The Bundeswehr has experience with Trophy and Iron Fist, as both systems were evaluated for the Leopard II in the past. The Bundeswehr also examined the locally developed ADS from Rheinmetall, but determined it will not be mature to support the upcoming deployment. Leopard tanks have been used in combat in Aghanistan and Syria, where they suffered heavy losses from anti-tank guided missiles, a challenge that brought the Turkish Army to rush APS to protect the tank.

Trophy APS has already been selected to equip four brigades of US Army M-1A2 SEP2 Abrams tanks, at least two are destined to deploy in Europe. The Dutch military also forsee APS as a priority and has contracted BAE Systems to integrate the Iron Fist Light Compact (IF-LC) system on its CV9035NL.

According to the planned schedule initial trials of Trophy on Leopard II are expected to begin this year with integration and testing completed by 2021, fielding 17 tanks (a company of 13 plus four spares) to equip the selected company in 2022. The unit will train and qualify to operate with the system in 2022, thus becoming combat ready for its VJTF deployment in 2023. The procurement is limited at this stage to the 17 systems and is not committing the Bundeswehr to a future APS solution.

The brigade size VJTF is part of 40,000 personnel strong North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Response Force (NRF). VJTF was formed to better respond to the changing security environment to the east and south of the Alliance’s borders. The force comprises a small combat element and deployable Command and Control (C2) element and Joint Task Force HQ. It also combines an initial follow-on forces group comprising other high-readiness forces that can deploy quickly following the VJTF, in response to a crisis. The VJTF will be able to deploy at short notice when tasked, between two to seven days, to combat threats against alliance sovereignty.

A multinational brigade of approximately 8,000 troops forms the VJTF. Last year, the lead brigade was provided by Italy. In 2019 Germany assumed command of VJTF with the 9th Panzerlehrbrigade, part of the 1st Panzer Division, (a multinational German and Dutch formation). Germany is expected to contribute more forces in 2023.

Partners in this rotation also include the Netherlands and Norway, which will provide capabilities such as aviation and mechanized infantry while France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Latvia and Lithuania will provide troops. The NRF for this year was certified during Exercise Trident Juncture 18, which mainly focused on NATO’s ability to move personnel and armor quickly across Europe.