The IDF Artillery Corps intends to acquire a new self-propelled gun system that would substantially enhance its capabilities. The IDF multi-year budget plan Te'uzah (Valor) for the years 2014-2018 includes a project involving the renewal of the self-propelled gun OrBat of the Corps by replacing its 40-year old M109 guns. In view of the gap that was created between the technological capabilities of modern artillery systems together with the needs of the Artillery Corps, which stem from the missions assigned to the Corps in the context of land warfare scenarios in the diversified theaters of operations facing the State of Israel, an urgent need has arisen for the acquisition of modern self-propelled gun systems that would offer a service expectancy of 25-30 years minimum.
The artillery forces are an important element in every battle. The artillery forces, also known as artillery support forces, play an important role by providing assistance and support to the maneuvering elements in the land battle, throughout the depth and breadth of the battlefield. They provide close fire support at long ranges and engage, hit and immobilize enemy artillery elements, surface-to-surface rockets batteries, command posts, forward command elements and other enemy forces. In the future, as the range increases and the accuracy improves, the artillery will be able to provide high-quality solutions to some of the close air support missions currently assigned to the air force in the context of the combined arms battle. Modern artillery forces are based primarily on an OrBat of self-propelled gun systems, whose mobility enables them to advance and integrate quickly in the missions of the other forces participating in the combined arms land battle.
Optimal Operational Capabilities
The characteristics of the next self-propelled gun system of the IDF Artillery Corps are based on the addition of operational capabilities for coping with the challenges the Corps will face in the context of a full-scale war, a low-intensity conflict, in urban warfare situations and during routine security operations. The new characteristics will be based, on the one hand, on the definition of the operational need and the combat doctrine that stem from the lessons derived from previous conflicts and from the preparation for the employment of artillery fire in the context of diversified combat scenarios on the future battlefield and the other missions the Artillery Corps will be able to execute by using the new self-propelled gun system. On the other hand, the new characteristics will be based on the need to establish a setup where the total life cycle cost of operation will be substantially lower than the cost of the present setup. The primary and most important parameters for the accomplishment of these objectives are outlined below.
Extended range: the new system should have a firing range of 40 kilometers and over. The length of the barrel is the main parameter that determines the firing range, in addition to the ammunition. The longer the barrel, the higher the muzzle velocity that may be achieved and the longer the range. At the same time, in view of various technological limitations and the costs associated with them, longer barrels are more difficult to manufacture. The longest 155mm caliber barrels in operational service have a length of 52 calibers (a number that denotes the number of times the gun caliber fits into the length of the barrel). The US-made self-propelled guns currently used by the IDF Artillery Corps are 39-caliber guns. They were manufactured more than forty years ago according to the combat doctrine of the US Army. The maximum range of 39-caliber guns is 28 kilometers, while 52-caliber guns reach a range of 41 kilometers using existing standard ammunition and a range of more than 50 kilometers using advanced ammunition. The upgrade to 52-caliber guns will, therefore, constitute a significant force multiplier for the weapon system.
Optimal firepower: the new self-propelled gun system should offer optimal firepower owing to the accuracy of the weapon system, its rate of fire, its ability to produce massive fire at high rates, its ability to respond quickly and shift fire between sectors and its lethality. Firepower is a parameter that depends on numerous factors. These factors, in turn, depend on the fire control and laying system, on the navigation system, on the ammunition, on the gun system's ability to deploy quickly and conduct the firing process automatically in order to achieve the best capacity and agility in the delivery of fire. The fire control system of new self-propelled gun systems is highly accurate and calculates the traverse and elevation data, which are transferred to an automatic laying system while using sensors and data for all of the required calculation parameters at the individual gun level. An important factor in improving the firepower is the rate of fire. The use of an automatic loader for the shells and propellant charges will enable a significant increase of the rate of fire to 6-8 rounds per minute, as opposed to 4 rounds per minute today, and possibly even faster bursts of fire. Additionally, the integration of a state-of-the-art fire control system and an automatic ammunition loader will enable the individual gun to produce a mass of several rounds that hit the target simultaneously. This novel maneuver, known as MRSI (Multiple Round Simultaneous Impact), can be performed by advanced self-propelled gun systems.
Mobility: the self-propelled gun, by definition, is a mobile and independently maneuvering weapon system. The self-propelled gun should be able to advance behind the armored and infantry forces and negotiate any required terrain. The self-propelled gun should maneuver, quickly leapfrog between positions, shift its fire between sectors and enable prompt response to surprised missions. The need for prompt response and constant preparedness to fire also dictates the use of an automatic system for conveying ammunition from the armored artillery ammunition support vehicles to the self-propelled guns on the battlefield.
Survivability: self-propelled guns have an armor-protected turret and the entire operation of the system by the crew is carried out from inside the turret. The maneuverability of the self-propelled gun, its ability to enter and exit its firing positions swiftly and operate the weapon system quickly enables it to execute maneuvers that improve its survivability, such as "shoot and scoot" maneuvers.