TEL AVIV: The Israeli government just awarded the initial, $125 million contract of a planned 12-year, $280 million program to replace its tank-like M109 howitzers with Elbit’s wheeled ATMOS. About half the work will be done by Elbit’s subsidiaries and partners in the United States, a sign of how Israeli defense spending has shifted since Washington restricted its ally’s ability to spend US aid on non-US products.
The investment also shows how good old-fashioned 155 mm shells still play a vital role in a Mideast roiled by Hezbollah rockets and Iranian missile tests. Even in an age of smart weapons, when you need to bombard a target, it turns out that quantity still has a quality of its own.
“Smart rockets and missiles are an excellent way of hitting enemy targets, but when the infantry has to force the enemy to retreat from a site, it needs the firepower of the artillery — which is relatively cheap compared with the new smart weapons,” one former commander of the IDF artillery corps told Breaking Defense. “Artillery is the best way of creating a smoke curtain around an enemy stronghold and keeping the enemy in the trenches by constant fire. Using smart weapons for these missions would cost huge sums of money.”
The US Army, facing off against the massive Russian artillery force, is also investing heavily in cannon as well as missiles. In fact, one of the Army’s most ambitious programs is a hybrid: a Strategic Long-Range Cannon that uses gunpowder to launch rocket-propelled projectiles with an intended range of over 1,000 miles.
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