IMI completes development of new tank shell
Apr 17, 2012 (Globes - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Israel Military Industries Ltd. (IMI) has completed development of a new tank shell, the M339 which can penetrate reinforced structures and explode inside, destroying targets. The new shell will undergo final tests over the coming weeks, ahead of regular production at the company's munitions factory in Ramat Hasharon. Deliveries to the IDF Armored Corps are scheduled for the summer.
The new shell will be used by Merkava Mk. 3 and Mk. 4 tanks, and replace current Halulan shells used for striking buildings in a combat zone.
"IMI's new shell has many improvements over the Halulan," IMI VP R&D Dr. Danny Peretz told "Globes". "The Halulan explodes outside a structure, and does not penetrate its walls. It was designed for a different purpose -- it is a hollow-point to hit armored vehicles. The M339 was developed to meet armies' combat needs on the modern urban battlefield."
The 120-mm M339 ensures surgical strikes against terrorist squads in urban combat zones, while reducing the risk of collateral damage of civilians. IMI says that the idea for the new shell emerged from analysis of combat operations during the 2006 Second Lebanon War and the December 2008 Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.
The Halulan explodes on contact with a structure's wall, giving terrorist squads inside a high degree of survivability. The M339 has a delayed action mechanism allowing the shell to penetrate a structure, and explode inside. The shock wave of the explosion is contained by the room, greatly enhancing its lethalness.
"We may have a shell that will take terrorists out of the houses and to a new level of combat against them," said Peretz. "From now on, they might go underground, or onto roofs. They are no longer safe inside buildings. There is a reason why this shell was developed in Israel, a country with experience of complex combat experience, which has established an urban combat doctrine for other armies too. We have a wealth of experience that others simply lack. But the experience is a painful one."
IMI's engineers took inspiration for the M339 from the company's Kalanit tank shell, an expensive, state-of-the-art smart shell designed for a different combat scenario: the destruction of vehicles used to carry enemy forces or weapons, antitank squads, forces concealed behind berms, concrete structures, and even enemy helicopters hovering overhead.
The M339 is much cheaper than the Kalanit, and has more limited capabilities. IMI insists, however, that the M339 is the best at what it does. "One does not come at the expense of the other," says Peretz, who was awarded the Israel Defense Prize for the Kalanit. "The Kalanit is a versatile shell and the M339 is specifically designed for urban combat. I think that the IDF will procure them both at the same time, for different purposes."
IMI delivered the first Kalanit shells to the IDF a year ago, and they are in use with armored forces serving along the Gaza border. Both the Kalanit and the M339 automatically receive targeting data from the tank's fire control computer. The Kalanit's versatility has made it a primary tank munitions for the urban battlefield, enabling a tank to carry fewer shells for designated targets and reduce the need for resupply during battle.
Foreign armies are interested in both the Kalanit and the M339.
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