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McClatchy-Tribune  07/30/2014 12:01 AM ET
IAI launches WindGuard to combat mortar shells [Globes, Tel Aviv, Israel :: ]

July 30--In the middle of the fighting in the Gaza Strip, in an attempt to deal with the mortar shells threat to the large forces in the field near Gaza and those already operating in Gaza, the IDF has bought forward the launching of the WindGuard radar system into operational use. The system, based on tactical radar, defends ground forces exposed to the threat of short-range rockets and shells. The system was developed by Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP.B1) subsidiary Elta Systems, which also produces the radar used by Iron Dome. The system was first unveiled a month ago at the Eurosatory international weapons system exhibition in Paris. This rapidly deployable mobile system immediately identifies the launching of short-range rockets or shells in the direction of a defined area, and provides the forces with warning of the launch.

The IDF, which has showed great interest in the system, has been involved in its development process, and planned to procure it. Operation Protective Edge in Gaza and the heavy mortar fire against the forces in the area, however, expedited its introduction into operational use. In recent days, Elta has delivered a number of such systems for use by the forces operating in the combat theater. It is not clear whether one of the systems was deployed yesterday afternoon near Kibbutz Beeri, where a mortar shell killed four IDF soldiers and wounded six others.

In contrast to the rockets fired at the home front, there is usually almost no warning of mortar fire. Notice of the mortar fire frequently arrives after the shells have already hit the ground. Their short flight time makes it difficult for the IDF to provide warning to enable forces and civilians near the Gaza Strip border fence to take cover.

A previous examination by the defense establishment analyzing the threats of low-trajectory weapons, such as mortars and rockets revealed that in the Yom Kippur and Second Lebanon Wars, 30-40% of casualties were caused by these weapons.

When the system was unveiled a month ago, IAI said that the WindGuard system was quickly and accurately pinpointing the location from which the shooting at the area it was protecting came from. The system provides warning to the forces in the region in which the bombs are projected to fall, enabling them to take cover. In addition, it provides them with the precise location of the sources of the firing, enabling them to return fire and neutralize it. IAI says that the system can be installed on a wide range of platforms, such as all-terrain vehicles, armored personnel carriers, and other vehicles used by the forces in the field. Among other things, it can also be placed near positions and sensitive installations. Elta Systems said that WindGuard was based on complex software and an algorithm that have already proved themselves in operations.

Even though a mortar is a very static and primitive weapon, no real answer to it has yet been found. Because of its short range and flight time, Iron Dome is incapable of dealing with it. Sufficient warning of such a barrage can save many lives by enabling people to take basic defensive measures, such as lying on the ground, which significantly reduces the exposure to the many fragments.

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. recently unveiled an intriguing development in dealing with the mortar threat. If it materializes, the IDF will be able within a few years to intercept mortar shells with a special solid-state laser ray. At this point, the system is being called "Iron Beam."

The new weapons: Trophy LV and Hermes 900

WindGuard is not the only system getting its first trial on the battlefield in Operation Protective Edge. Since the ground campaign began about 10 days ago, a defense system for tanks and APCs called Trophy LV developed by Rafael has been used for the first time under high-intensity combat conditions. The system, which protects armored vehicles from anti-tank missiles, was declared operational as early as 2011, and has already prevented more than 10 hits on Israeli armor in the current campaign. At the same time, due to budget constraints, a large proportion of IDF tanks and APCs are not yet protected by Trophy LV. One example was the M-113, an outdated APC, that was hit at the beginning of the land campaign in the Sajiyah neighborhood, killing seven Golani Brigade soldiers.

The Israeli air force's activity in Gaza also includes extensive use of drones, which are playing a major role in the current campaign. These have been joined in recent weeks by the most advanced drone manufactured by Elbit Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: ESLT; TASE: ESLT) -the Hermes 900. The new drone can stay in the air a long time, taking an active part in the fighting, providing close support to ground troops, and providing them with real-time intelligence. In addition to Elbit's new drone, the air force is also using Elbit's Hermes 450 and IAI's Shuval and Eitan drones.

 

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