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.

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).

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.