A compact version of the Cardom heavy mortar is tested during a night shot. (Elbit Systems)
TEL AVIV — Elbit Systems is validating through live-fire tests what it claims is the world’s first “pocket artillery” heavy mortar system for elite infantry and spec ops forces.
Mounted on Humvees and jeeps, Spear mates light vehicle tactical agility with rapid-firing, autonomously operated 120mm mortars for lethal, low-signature maneuvering missions.
It’s a compact version of the firm’s Cardom — known here as Keshet — 120mm self-propelled mortar system operated by the US Army on Stryker vehicles and on M113 carriers deployed by Israeli infantry battalions and in organic support of Israeli armored battalions.
Boaz Cohen, vice president for land systems at Elbit Land and C4I, Haifa, Israel, said a specialized recoil mechanism developed for Spear makes it possible to mount the 120mm firing system on light vehicles without sacrificing lethality and accuracy of the self-propelled Cardom.
According to Cohen, the soft recoil system reduces barrel firing loads of the downsized Spear to under 10 tons, a third of Cardom’s 30-ton recoil force and 12 times less than standard 120mm rounds.
Elbit executives say recoil and other performance parameters have been validated in dozens of live fire tests conducted in recent months.
A full-up Spear system will be displayed for the first time May 19-21 at the International Firepower Conference and Exhibition in Zichron Ya’akov, Israel, an annual event co-sponsored by the Israel Artillery Corps Association and Israel Defense.
“Spear has the lowest recoil in the world. … It’s the only system that brings 12mm lethality, accuracy and rapidity of fire to 4x4 light vehicles,” Cohen said.
In a May 11 interview, he likened Spear to “pocket artillery” optimized for high-lethality ground maneuvers that cannot be done in quantity by artillery or armored carrier-mounted systems.
Like Cardom, Spear is designed to fire 16 rounds per minute and strike within 30 meters of targets at a seven-kilometer range. Spear is designed to be “in and out of action within 60 seconds,” according to Elbit marketing data.
“Once connected to other sensors and payloads on the C4I network, the first mortar can be fired within 30 seconds of target identification,” Cohen said.
For special missions demanding stealthy insertion into forward areas, Spear can be deployed by utility helicopters and sea-based landing craft.
“This rapidly deployable capability is more maneuverable and much quieter for use in special missions where you need to insert significant, rapid-response firepower deep into enemy territory,” Cohen said.
Weighing 5.5 tons, including munitions, defense and industry sources said two Spear systems can be deployed by CH-53D helicopters often tapped by the Israeli military for special missions. C-130 airlifters can carry three Spear systems.
In March, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) deployed CH-53D Sea Stallions alongside US Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys in aerial assault drills conducted as part of the Noble Shirley 2014 exercise.
The weeklong training event was conducted at multiple locations throughout Israel and involved amphibious landings, urban assault operations and the joint Osprey-Sea Stallion aerial assault force.
It marked the first time the tilt-rotors were flown to Israel, according to US Marine Lt. Col. J.E. Langlois, executive officer of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit who served as US mission commander for the bilateral drill.
“The purpose of the exercise was to enhance interoperability between US and Israeli forces by conducting combined air, land and sea operations, while exchanging some tactics, techniques and procedures,” Langlois was quoted in a March 11 newsletter of the Camp Lejeune, North Carolina-based unit.
Israel plans to purchase V-22s primarily to support special operations.
The Pentagon notified Congress in January of a possible $1.13 billion sale of six Bell-Boeing V-22B Block C tilt-rotors to Israel. In a March 12 interview, a US industry source said the two governments are finalizing details of the package, and a US foreign military sales contract will be presented to the Israeli MoD in mid-June.
The Ospreys are intended to support Israel’s intensifying demand for stealthy, surgical, strategic missions far from its borders.
In a rare interview published in April of last year, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, IDF chief of staff, told Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s largest daily newspaper, that special operations under his watch have increased by “tens of percent.”
“You almost won’t find a point in time that nothing is happening somewhere around the world. … It’s not my invention and I am not taking credit. I am simply accelerating all those special operations,” Gantz said, according to the report. ■