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Firms Face Off in Israel's Mega-Artillery Contest

Mar. 10, 2014 - 02:15PM   |  
By BARBARA OPALL-ROME   |   Comments
Israel is looking to replace its M109 howitzer.
Israel is looking to replace its M109 howitzer. (Wikipedia)
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TEL AVIV — Israel’s Elbit Systems and a consortium of Israeli, German and US firms are facing off in a high-stakes bid to modernize Israel’s Artillery Corps with new self-propelled guns.

The two candidates for more than $1 billion in multiyear procurement awards were downselected by Israel’s Ground Forces Command from a pool of four prospective bidders, officers here said.

Designated as a priority program by the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) General Staff with approved multiyear funding for a first brigade, the future gun will replace 50-year-old M109 howitzers.

The competition pits a new development by Elbit Systems against the Artillery Gun Module by Munich-based Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) optimized for the IDF by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries.

Both options must be integrated on the Lockheed Martin-built M270 multiple launch rocket system chassis to maximize commonality of existing inventory and Israel’s recent acquisition of 150 chassis from excess US Army stocks.

“We are going with the 270 chassis in any case due to new excess supplies from the Americans and the savings to accrue through commonality,” said Brig. Gen. Roy Riftin, IDF chief artillery officer.

He added that US-based integration by either Lockheed or Elbit’s Dallas-based US subsidiary will allow the IDF to fund a significant portion of the program with annual US military aid.

Operational requirements call for a fully autonomous 52-caliber cannon capable of firing 155mm projectiles at a rate of at least five rounds per minute, with all shells impacting designated targets at the same time.

In a recent interview, Riftin flagged multiple round simultaneous impact as a key requirement for targeting terrorists, rocket-launching squads and other so-called disappearing targets.

“When the enemy sees the first round, he responds accordingly. But with this simultaneous targeting capability, he can’t disappear. It’s something we need as we adapt to new threats,” he said.

Demonstration of the KMW-based option is planned for this year while Elbit’s tailor-developed alternative should be ready for demonstrations by the end of 2015. Plans call for a deployment of Israel’s first future gun-equipped Artillery Brigade by 2019. ■


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