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Something interesting about Merkava III's armor protection(in Chinese): Some of these images are come from Chinese course book《装甲防护技术基础》(The basic technology of armor protection), and others are

Couple more of the Mk.3-based Ofek    

12 hours ago, Laviduce said:

Ayy sorry mate, that's all I could find. It was from an article on the life work of a deceased personality in MANTAK (Tank administration) and RAPAT (Tank development authority). No other photos than some of the more well known photos of the Sholef. 


I would like to add, however, that according to MANTAK, the Merkava 4 was the first tank without any limitations or compromises, specifically when talking about armor protection. It was talked a while ago, and still talked about, that the Merkava's front mounted engine limits the quality of armor protection of the hull front section, and while it's true for the Mark 1-3 tanks, it's no longer true for the Mark 4. So that explains that MANTAK has viewed that specific armor profile as ideal for Israel's needs - unprotected LFP, no overlapping of UFP protection with LFP, but very good protection of the low-mid to higher section of the UFP. 

It's quite interesting, considering how different many armor profile concepts are in different countries.  US prefers a heavily protected and very large LFP but well angled, thin, and very small UFP. Leo goes for a similar design but with an arrow shape. T-tanks armor the entire UFP very well but keep a poorly armored LFP. Chally goes for a Merkava-like concept but its UFP overlaps with the LFP, and same can be said for the Leclerc.



By the one, one of the guys in the picture is an MTU representative, probably there to see which powerpack can be fitted there and how, to achieve the desired armor profile.

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Israel's artillery-oriented magazine shared an interesting article by Lt Col Rafi Almagor that shares insights from the past development of the Sholef, that could be implemented in the development of the new, yet-unnamed howitzer in development.

Lt Col Rafi Almagor was one of the heads of the Sholef program.


The article is in Hebrew and translated to English by me:


Development of the future self propelled howitzer of the artillery corps, one of the main projects of the ground arm, began last year in the company Elbit Systems. This isn't the first time Elbit's plant in Yokneam develops a howitzer for the IDF. In fact, in the days of Soltam, in the 80's of the last century, a new howitzer was developed under the name "Sholef". That project did not materialize to serial production, but the technology of the Sholef and its development technique were studied and implemented by German companies for the sake of the development and manufacturing of the Panzer 2000 howitzers, sold across the world.

The demand to develop the Sholef came after the Yom Kippur War, tells Lt Col Rafi Almagor, that served as the head of the development department.

At the time, there were only 2 battalions of the Rochev (M109A5), that was the best howitzer in the corp. All the other howitzers were either towed or self propelled, but even the self propelled ones were almost like towed ones, for example the M-50 (Sherman based L-33 cannon).

The requirement was for a cannon that was better propelled, with higher rate of fire, with longer ranges, and better protection. After a long round of debates it was decided that the Sholef project would be based on the Merkava and handled by MANTAK (Merkava Tank Administration).

The idea was to developed a turret that is all artillery, and on the other hand use an existing hull that was developed for the Merkava. The Merkava was suitable because its engine was in the front. At the time, the idea to put the M-50's engine at the front was revolutionary and allowed converting a tank hull to a howitzer's hull. In essence, it was the beginning of the conception of a universal platform for all corps.

The Sholef's characteristics included among other things a 52 caliber gun, a range of 40km and a high rate of fire of 9 rounds per minute. The cannon included a semi-robotic system, meaning the shells were moved by a robotic system, and the charges were moved manually, because at the time it wasn't known where the future of charges would go - liquid, modular, or electro-magnetic. Thus, the line of thought was that we need to be prepared for everything. Additionally, for the Sholef to be more available in all combat scenarios, improvements were made tot he protection, and means against bomblets, shrapnel, and small arms fire were added.

In his opinion, similarly, the development of the new howitzer requires creative thought that would provide a long term solution. 

In the framework of development you have to understand 2 things:

1)You never really know what they'll demand of you in the end.

2)When you have a good weapon that can move everywhere, outranges everything, and can fire in direct firing mode - you can do special things during combat that the enemy won't expect.

That's what accompanies me all the time when I think about the future howitzer.

During his time in the project, Almagor commanded on the team that did the field testing. In his opinion, if the Sholef was operational, it would still be a world leading howitzer. In the end, it didn't become operational, but its demonstrators have shown impressive capabilities in all parameters - firepower, mobility, and protection.

Now that he's aware of the development of the new howitzer, he asks the new development team to learn from his experience.

According to media releases, the demonstrator that Elbit develops will be based on the ATMOS, but will be better and more innovative, explains Almagor.

The ammunition handling system will be fully robotized; From the automatic loading of the fuze, the modular charges, the loaded shell, and the firing - all will be done without human intervention. The soldiers will be in the cabin, as is in the MLRS today. They will input all the data to the mission computer, and the howitzer will commence the loading and firing sequence automatically. This is an innovative approach that shows technological advancement. In comparison with the tools we have today, we understand that the new howitzer will bring an improvement in almost every parameter. What interests me is if the howitzer will provide a long term solution, or are we settling for what is trendy in today's market?


I learned about the importance of mobility only through the Sholef, and my insistence on the Merkava. In one of the exercises in the Golan we ran into a tactical problem when the Sholef was stationed in Katzrin, and the exercise itself was in Yosifon. About 6 hours before the drill, when the howitzer was ready in position, a safety directive was received, according to which, we couldn't conduct the firing as planned, and they were about to cancel the artillery support. The section commander received a path, and through the inertial navigation system, the Sholef 'cut' through the Golan Heights with the Merkava's treads, and arrived at peak speed in the staging zone of the assault forces.

Meaning, the Sholef's mobility allowed it to conduct this unexpected move and managed to prevent the abortion of its participation in an exercise.

During my work with the Sholef, I ran into many cases where the Rochev (M109A5) had trouble going through certain terrain, whereas the Sholef wasn't bothered by it.

During my days as an instructor in a battalion commanders' course, I witnessed how better the mobility of the Merkava was compared to the other AFVs that were there, in every terrain. Even good artillery will be required to do some unexpected actions.

We had a few exercises when the Sholef was driving alongside the tanks to solve a certain scenario in a very 'special' terrain conditions. Had it not had the tracks that allowed it to 'sprint' with the tanks, and the large belly (ammo storage), it would have been a significant disadvantage. So the mobility allows me to go 'wild' on the battlefield and do things the enemy wouldn't expect me to be able to do.

It's obvious the new howitzer will be much better than the Rochev, but it's important to see how limited it will be in certain conditions.


Another important aspect in the conception of the new howitzer is its firing and loading systems, with emphasis on their reliability. In the technological age of today, Almagor explains, automatic systems are far more reliable than they were in the Sholef's days, and they know how to locate and analyze almost any fault. With that in mind, we need to be careful so that technology wouldn't dictate our actions and cripple our forces when the reported faults don't need the reality on the field.

When we asked Aviel to insert new capabilities, we had to make sure that the addition brings an operational advantage, and that we control the technology and not it controls us, he adds.

When we're talking about weapon systems, the ability to override the automatic systems is critical. That is, I must be able to tell the robot "I understand you, there's a problem but keep going". In the Sholef we dedicated a lot of thought into that. If the robot tells you, for example, that there's no shell in the barrel, but you can see that there is, and there's a problem with a small sensor - does the commander have the ability to override the problem and continue the mission, or should the whole system be shut down?

Will the howitzer only work when it's 100%? Or will it work when there are malfunctions? All this needs to be considered. Even if today's systems are more reliable sevenfold, the new howitzer will be 20 times more complex, and thus the expectancy of malfunctions will not reduce.


In the battlefield, the howitzer is of course more exposed to dangers than sand and mud. Almagor identifies the aspect of self defense as a potential weakspot. Historically, we can put less emphasis on protection because few are the times when we're hit with counter-battery fire. But whoever fears counter-battery and wants to increase his range, deploy on larger areas, and quick movements after firing, must also provide an answer against short range shrapnel, small arms fire in case of commando attack, and protection of the charges' bin.

I think the new howitzer must have means of self protection for the crew. Whether it is machine guns, a mortar, or other means. The howitzer cannot be dependent on another protective force. 

From my experience, I'd recommend it have a few minimal protective capabilities. In the Sholef we had 2 machine guns on the roof that provided us great protection against infantry. We pondered whether to add a mortar like they had in the armored corps - but we didn't adopt the idea in the end.

According to the media, the new howitzer will present improved rate of fire, that will allow few vehicles to provide high concentrations of fire with high accuracy. In Almagor's opinion, in order to have a high rate of fire, the the importance of the belly (ammo storage) is critical.

Other than having just a wide belly that will allow a large number of shells that will support a high number of missions, a high variety of types of shells is also important. A howitzer with many shell types will be more flexible.

Today's developments in the artillery world present a high variety of innovative ammunition. With that in mind, there also needs to be the capability to fire old types of ammunition. If we look at the military history of Israel, it seems that in every lengthy war we had to receive support from friendly states in order to refill our ammo stocks. So that the importance of backwards compatibility is significant in this regard.

Another aspect of the ammunition belly is the 'ground shells' (shells provided by the ammo carrier that are usually just dropped on the ground near the howitzer) . At the time we thought the Sholef should fire these. That is, if I am in a safe position, it's best I fire these before I start consuming my internal ammo, and only consume it when I maneuver. I suggest the developers look into this aspect as well.




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13 hours ago, Mighty_Zuk said:

Oh no.

  Reveal hidden contents




Also, this:

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I know what you're thinking, lads. But stop drooling over Mr. Tal. I need to know what's the meaning of this picture. What are we seeing there? Whose armor it is, is unknown. Date is unknown. What holed it is unknown. It's no APFSDS nor HEAT.

At first glance, this appears, as has already been pointed out by Kylie, the left flank of an Achzarit. If so, then it's forward of the Toga mesh armour. Yet, I am not sure. I do wonder if it is some proof of concept, ballistic test rig, rather than the heavy APC itself. I have seen something similar when the Namer was being developed. 


There is another thing. I have met Tal a couple of times. He was a physically small man, as am I. The roof of an Achzarit  towers well above our hight, yet on this photo it is at head hight. Something odd here. 


I am looking at the image on a mobile phone not computer, but isn't that hole an exit rather than entry point? 



Edited by Marsh
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3 minutes ago, Mighty_Zuk said:

Mind explaining how so? It's not very intuitive for me.


When the rod smacks into armor it starts cratering the armor.  The armor material isn't just being sheared into, it's being pushed outwards as well, so the diameter of the hole formed in the armor is a bit larger than the diameter of the rod.

Depending on what the rod is made out of this effect can be more or less pronounced.  DU projectiles make smaller-diameter holes than tungsten alloy projectiles.

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12 hours ago, Collimatrix said:


When the rod smacks into armor it starts cratering the armor.  The armor material isn't just being sheared into, it's being pushed outwards as well, so the diameter of the hole formed in the armor is a bit larger than the diameter of the rod.

Yes, but the question is « how large ? ».

Is it large enough for the fins to pass through ? I don’t think so. 


12 hours ago, Collimatrix said:

Depending on what the rod is made out of this effect can be more or less pronounced.  DU projectiles make smaller-diameter holes than tungsten alloy projectiles.

DU is self sharpening while you have a mushroom effet with tungsten. 

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