Israel’s Ministry of Defense announced today the selection of Elbit Systems’ Iron-Fist Active Protection System (APS) for the protection of some of the IDF combat and combat support armored vehicles. The selection followed a competitive evaluation of several APS solutions.

IMOD selected a new variant of the Iron-Fist, known as Light-Decoupled (IF-LD) version, a decoupled configuration that evolved from the first generation Iron-First originally developed by IMI in competition to Rafael’s Trophy APS. The Trophy is currently installed on IDF Merkava Mk4 and Mk3 Main Battle Tanks and various variants of the Namer heavy infantry fighting vehicle.

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[wlm_ismember]Following the selection, the IDF will receive IF-LD for its Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozers and 8×8 Eitan armor fighting vehicles. The IDF plans to buy a couple of hundreds of APS systems worth hundreds of millions over 10 years. The tender evaluated bids based on technical and financial aspects, regarding the operational requirements for such solutions that differ from those that guided the selection of the first generation of Trophy APS inducted to service in 2011. The Trophy APS proved its value during the 2014 ‘Pillar of Defense’ operation in Gaza and procurement is ongoing to equip all IDF newly produced Merkava and Namer vehicles as well as some of the Merkava 3 and 4 tanks in service.

The impressive combat success convinced several foreign customers to take the system. In 2018 Trophy was selected to equip two US Army M-1A2C armor brigades, and has become an integral part in this upgrade version. The system was also selected to protect a German Leopard 2 battalion destined to join NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force by 2023. To improve its odds with lighter armor, Rafael matured and optimized the system into Trophy-HV, a lighter, more compact and more affordable version. It was integrated into the LAV-III, tested on the Stryker 8×8 APC and proposed for integration with the German Boxer wheeled armored vehicle.

However, in recent competitions, Iron Fist (and IF-LD) have beaten Trophy in acquisition and integration programs. IF-LD was chosen among three contenders (Rafael’s Trophy and ARTIS’ Iron Curtain) to protect the US Bradley armored vehicles, is undergoing integration with Dutch CV-9030 and the Australian Boxer 8×8 wheeled AFV. Although Elbit Systems is signed on these successes, the credit should be attributed to IMI Systems, the company that persistently developed Iron-Fist over two-decades. Tackling technical obstacles, financial, bureaucratic and political hurdles the IMI Iron-Fist team was determined and persistent to follow the program to the successful IMOD selection milestone.

The 8×8 Eitan is a wheeled armor vehicle developed by the IMOD to replace the 60-year old M-113. The vehicle carries 13 personnel in a spacious armored capsule and has an unmanned turret mounting independent sights for the commander and gunner, a 30/40mm automatic cannon and ammunition, a coaxial machine gun, smoke dischargers, threat warning systems, and APS. Eitan is expected to implement some of the technologies developed and demonstrated in the Carmel program, although, unlike Carmel, it will be operated by a crew of 3.[/wlm_ismember]

IF-LD uses independent optical sensors, tracking radar, rotatable launchers, and countermeasure munitions to defeat threats at a safe distance from the defended vehicle. The system provides 360-degree protection coverage for close-range scenarios in both open terrain and urban environments. Compact size and low weight make it more adaptable to smaller and lighter combat vehicles. Compared to wall-mounted APS, IF-LD defeats threats at a distance from the protected vehicle, thus eliminating the probability of residual penetration and simplify integration with the platform, particularly on turreted configurations.