The shooting down of a US Chinook helicopter last Saturday in Afghanistan that killed 38 soldiers – 30 Americans and eight Afghans - will accelerate the efforts to equip helicopters with active systems that can protect them from rockets. This is the assessment of sources in Israel.
As reported in Flight, Rafael plans to adapt its Trophy active protection system for use on helicopters and transport aircraft.
The Trophy was originally developed to defend tanks and APCs from rockets and shells. It is already protecting the Merkava-4 main battle tanks operated by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).
The Trophy creates a hemispheric protected zone around the vehicle in which incoming threats are intercepted and defeated. When a threat is detected, identified and verified, the system launches the classified interceptor and it deflects and destabilises the rocket or shell so that it does not hit its target.
While the Israeli Air Force (IAF) helicopters are using EW systems against missiles, there is a need to protect them against weapons such as RPG rockets. These have downed many helicopters in Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan.
Converting the systems will involve downsizing them and changing the way the interceptors are being launched to defeat the incoming threat.
Rafael confirmed that work is being done on adapting the system and that it plans to use integral aircraft sensors to save weight.
The sources said that the main effort is to manufacture enough systems to equip the Merkava-4 tanks, but all signs indicate that the airborne version is on the drawing table.
The airborne version may be especially fit for large helicopters such as the Chinook and the CH-53.