By Jim Garamone
WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2006 – Army leaders are committed to ensuring soldiers have the best force-protection capability possible, but also want to avoid giving soldiers a false sense of security, service officials said here today. Maj. Gen. Jeffrey A, Sorenson, the Army's deputy for acquisition and systems management, took exception to an NBC News report that said the Army is not buying an Israeli system, called Trophy, that could protect soldiers and their vehicles from rocket-propelled grenades. The report alleges the Army manipulated information in favor of a competing Raytheon system, called Quick Kill.
Both the Israeli and Raytheon systems are designed to fire missiles that intercept RPGs in flight. The Israeli system may be six months ahead of the Raytheon system, but it has limitations. The NBC report made it sound as if the Army refused to field a perfectly fine combat system that would save lives, officials said.
Sorenson said they system is not a "produceable item." The Israelis have been working on the Trophy system for 10 or 11 years, Sorenson said. "If this thing was ready to go, my question would be, why wasn't it on the particular tanks that went into Lebanon?" he said. No Israeli Merkava tanks carried the Trophy system, he said.
Other problems include the fact that the system right now has no reloading capability. Once it fires, that side of the vehicle is vulnerable. Which brings up another shortcoming: the Trophy can only be mounted to protect one axis. This means officials would have to mount multiple missile systems on every vehicle. The Quick Kill missile has 360-degree capability and a reload capability.
Another worry is collateral damage, he said. "In a tight urban area, the Trophy system may take out the RPG, but we may kill 20 people in the process," Sorenson said. "That is a concern we have that we haven't fully evaluated."
The general said there also is confusion on the contract award. "It was awarded by the lead system integrator and the government team," Sorenson said. "It was not done by Raytheon. There was confusion in the report that the Army was cooking the books and which was absolutely false, blatantly false."
Sorenson said the Army has standards of performance for force-protection capabilities. "These have not only been dictated by lessons learned in theater, but all the work we have done heretofore on all the systems prior to this," he said. "We will not put anything out there that has not demonstrated that it is capable of doing what it is alleged to do."
The bottom line is that if a system "does not have the 'Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval' it does not go forward," Sorenson said.
The general said that every soldier lost is a tragedy. But, of the more than 1,400 soldiers killed in Iraq, most died from improvised explosive devices. A total of 148 soldiers have been lost due to an RPG or an RPG and other weapons. Sixty-three soldiers died by RPG only, he said. Broken down further, 10 soldiers died as a result of an RPG hit to a U.S. combat system -- an Abrams tank, Bradley fighting vehicle, Stryker wheeled vehicle or M-113 armored personnel carrier.
"The reason that is so low is that those combat systems already have good force-protection systems applied," Sorenson said. There are reactive armor tiles on the Bradley. Officials added slat-armor protection to the Stryker, and all combat vehicles have protection built into them, officials said.