The Israeli military has a new missile defense system that counters the threat of incoming missiles with bursts of molten liquid metal.
Created by defense contractor Rafael, the system (dubbed "Trophy") is "the world's first and only operational active protection system." It's designed to protect tanks from one of the few threats the lumbering behemoths face on the modern battlefield: airborne explosives.
Imagine that you're driving around in a tank, minding your own business and feeling completely invincible. You round the corner of a dusty village, and some jerk with a Soviet-era RPG-7 dashes from behind a disused turnip cart hoping to ruin your day via catastrophic explosion. This is where Trophy comes into play.
Once that rocket-propelled grenade is fired, Trophy utilizes precise radar technology to lock on to the approaching threat. Once detected, the system then launches miniature radar drones which pinpoint the incoming weapon and relay its exact position to the main targeting computer. That RPG is then shredded in mid-air by a blast of liquid metal, moments before it impacts your ride.
The best part of all this is that Trophy is entirely automated. Since the sight of that RPG contrail streaking toward you has locked your brain into a series of primal fear responses and very few modern tanks are capable of barrel-rolling out of the way, you panic and freeze, but Trophy goes about its business with robotic precision and blows the airborne threat into its component parts.
Though Trophy has yet to see widespread use, a prototype system installed on a tank patrolling the Gaza Strip successfully dispatched an anti-tank missile earlier this year. Barring unforeseen complications, Trophy should enter active use by 2012.
Having watched Rafael's promotional footage of the system in action, I'm of two minds on Trophy. On the one hand, this is yet another existentially grim leap in mankind's endless race to utterly annihilate itself in as innovative a fashion as possible.
On the other hand, Trophy is totally wicked sweet. Short of surrounding tanks in swarms of weaponized autonomous drones, I can't think of a more awesome protection plan.