The Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) has opened bids for its $1 billion self-propelled gun modernization program aiming to replace nearly 50-year-old M109 self-propelled howitzers.
An IDF official listed the new gun as key to the ground force’s Fire2025, a strategic investment plan for firepower that is lethal, longer in range and more precise, yet flexible enough for effective use across the operational spectrum.
But the final approval to initiate the program as part of the IDF’s Teuza (Valor) 2014-2018 plan is pending the outcome of workshops to be conducted this month by the IDF General Staff, according to Defense News.
If approved, the competition will likely involve a crew-saving, autonomously loaded 52-caliber cannon and 155mm barrel integrated on a refurbished or new, low-cost chassis, the report said.
The local companies say Elbit Systems, and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Israel Military Industries (IMI) are gearing up for the competition.
International companies involved in the anticipated bid include Lockheed Martin’s Dallas-based Missiles and Fire Control unit, and Germany’s Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and Rheinmetall Defence, both based in Munich.
Currently, Elbit is working with the IDF to optimize C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) interoperability of all ground force elements through its ongoing Tzayad Digital Army Program, the report added.
Elbit has nearly developed the essential elements for the indigenous program, and is expecting about two years to integrate, test and qualify a new gun specifically tailored to IDF requirements.
“As the only gun manufacturer in Israel, we have all the essential building blocks in place,” Boaz Cohen, vice president for land systems in Elbit’s Land and C4I Division was quoted as saying by Defense News. “We have the auto loader, the gun, breech, elevation system, electronics system and, of course, the requisite C4I to meet whatever the IDF ultimately determines as its future gun requirements.”
The Israel Military Industries (IMI) is expected to team with Rheinmetall on a comparatively lower-cost modular upgrade package aimed at extending the operational service of its vast M109 inventory for another 40 years, the report said.
The IMI proposed upgrade — M10917 Spark — introduces a longer, modern 155mm/52-caliber barrel on a re-engined M109 chassis, according to Defense Update. The IMI proposal will feature the automatic shell-loading capabilities of the PzH2000, developed by KMW and Rheinmetall for the German Army, which reduces current eight-man crews to three or four gunners.
As for Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the company is promoting a KMW artillery gun module integrated on a Lockheed Martin-built M270 MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) chassis. No official announcement has been given yet.