Armored Vehicle Experts: Reuters Vehicle Not Hit by Israeli Missile

There has been quite a bit of debate in the blogosphere surrounding this story (note: link has been deactivated) of several days ago:

An Israeli air strike hit a Reuters vehicle in Gaza City on Saturday, wounding two journalists as they covered a military incursion, doctors and residents said.

One of the Palestinian journalists, who worked for a local media organization, was seriously wounded. A cameraman working for Reuters was knocked unconscious in the air strike, one of several in the area.

The Israeli army said the vehicle was hit because it was acting suspiciously in an area of combat and had not been identified as belonging to the media.


"During the operation, there was an aerial attack on a suspicious vehicle that drove in a suspicious manner right by the forces and in between the Palestinian militant posts," army spokeswoman Captain Noa Meir said.

"This car was not identified by the army as a press vehicle," she said. "If journalists were hurt, we regret it."

Despite the Israeli acknowledgement that they did fire on a "suspicious vehicle," bloggers were inherently suspicious of the story due to apparently staged and in some cases definitively falsified information provided by Arab news stringers and photojournalists in the recent Israeli-Hezbollah War. Some were quick to cast doubts on the veracity of the story.

Other bloggers, notably AllahPundit, Ace of Spades and Dan Riehl cautioned that we should resist jumping on the "Pallywood" bandwagon without having support for the claims being made.

I wanted support to prove or disprove these allegations, and so I went to the people who should know most about the kind of vehicles damaged in the attack, armored vehicle manufacturers themselves.

I sent an email to these five armored vehicle manufacturers, asking them to look at the photo (above) that seems to be the center of the debate, and asked them two questions:

  1. Is this damage consistent with what you might expect from a 70MM rocket's warhead detonating roughly a foot above an civilian-manufactured armored vehicle such as the one pictured? If not, would you expect more damage, or less?
  2. People suspicious of the attack are citing the obvious rust around the impact site on the vehicle as proof that these are old markings, while the expert claims that vehicles can rust in this kind of climate in the short time mentioned. Does that sound logical, or would alloys used in civilian armored vehicles take longer to show this level of rust? Would you provide an estimate of how long it would take?

Within an hour, I had responses from representatives of two armored vehicle manufacturing companies.

David Khazanski of Inkas Armored Vehicle Manufacturing responded first, stating:

Looking at the picture received through the link on your email, the damage on the vehicle was sustained very long time ago and probably not by the rocket, or it was already tempered [sic] with[.]

In no uncertain terms, Mr. Khazankski doubts that the vehicle was damaged recently, or by rocket fire, and suggests that the vehicle may have been tampered with.

Chris Badsey, chairman and CEO of First Defense International Group, which has armored vehicles deployed in the Middle East and has professional knowledge of Israeli weaponry, graciously offered up a very detailed analysis of the vehicle in the photo above (minor spelling errors corrected):

1.) Firstly as an armouring company we are familiar with all weapons, weapons damage, collateral damage and the destruction of armoured vehicles from blasts and various types of rockets and ammunition.
2.) Secondly we are familiar with the Israeli weapons of choice and uses in the field as we continue to work with them and have a manufacturing relationship with them both in Israel and Iraq.
3.) Whether the Reuters vehicle was attacked by who I could not verify but In my expert opinion the damage, the hole is NOT consistent of a Hellfire Missile or a 70mm rocket nor any armoured piercing bullet/trajectory.
4.) The Reuters armoured van would only be armoured to threat level IV which would consist of 8mm of High Hard 4140 Steel armouring on the roof which you can see in the picture as peeled open somewhat. The damage to the roof looks to me very consistent with possible shrapnel penetration from an object other than a rocket or missile itself.
5.) Furthermore the armored glass would be 62mm for threat level IV protection against blasts and armour piercing rounds. The damage to the back window is certainly NOT consistent with any missile, bomb, rocket blast that would have occurred on impact if a rocket was fired around and directly at the vehicle.

Mr. Badsey went on to bring up a point that few of us seemed to have considered, and that is the primary blast effect involved in any explosive projectile used against an armored vehicle.

There are essential four kinds of blast effects (mechanisms) related to the detonation of any explosive device on the human body, and the first three carry over to the kind of damage we should expect warheads to have on vehicles.

They are:

  • primary: Unique to high-order explosives; results from the impact of the overpressurization wave with body surfaces ;
  • secondary: Results from flying debris and bomb fragments;
  • tertiary: Results when bodies are thrown by blast wind;
  • quaternary: All explosion-related injuries, illnesses, or diseases not due to primary, secondary, or tertiary mechanisms; includes exacerbation or complications of existing conditions

The vehicle in the picture above shows only very minor damage that some allege are consistent with the secondary, or shrapnel effect of a warhead detonating in close proximity. But a vehicle either hit by or suffering a near miss from a helicopter warhead would also sustain major primary blast damage, as shown below.

expedition

The photo above is of one of First Defense International Group's armored Ford Expeditions which was heavily damaged by an IED blast near Baghdad, Iraq. Note how the vehicle has been heavily dented by the blast. Teh hood is crumpled and the bumbers are destroyed. All bulletproof windows have been heavily damaged, with the left rear glass completely imploded (to FDI's credit, there were no casualties).

achit2

The Reuter's vehicle, however seems to show far less damage than one may expect. The sheet metal is not damaged, and the spider-webbing of the windshield would seem to be the only damage to the vehicle's glass. If a warhead detonated on or within feet of this vehicle as seems to be the claim, Mr. Badsey would have expected far more damage, what one word did he use to describe what we should see of this vehicle?

"Pieces."

It was preceded by the words, "nothing left but."

I then forwarded this link to Mr. Badsey, and asked him if what he saw was consistent with the kind of damage he might expect from a 70MM rocket explosion above the vehicle as an intelligence expert opined to Allah at Hotair.com.

He responded:

There is clearly no blast damage internally and only from some object inconsistent with any rocket or missile attack. I’m unable to see any burn or secondary explosion or markings from the picture so apologize for not been 100% able to see from this picture. A 70mm rocket has certain features and destructive mechanisms that are not consistent in either pictures especially on entry and internal damage from what you have shown me. The inside is too intact including the upholstery for this type of ammunition detonation on impact. It looks as if the armor was penetrated by probably flying shrapnel. Not consistent with missiles or rockets of any kind

And so here we stand, weighing conflicting stories.

Reuters says they were fired upon, and Israel agrees that they fired at a suspicious vehicle, but two armored vehicle experts state that the damage to this Reuters vehicle is not even close to being consistent with what they would expect from Israeli rockets or missiles. The first expert, Mr. Khazanski, indicated that he thinks the damage on the roof was sustained a "long time ago."

From what these experts tell me, it does not appear that the vehicle Reuters claimed was hit was hit by either a rocket or a missile, that the damage appears to be from some time prior to the attack, but that the damage may be consistent with shrapnel from something else.

Something damaged this Reuters armored vehicle, but when and how seems to be very much in doubt.

Update: Allah has another photo... no rust. that would possibly rule out the the damage being old, but what precisely hit the vehicle is still up in the air.

Cross-posted at Confederate Yankee.