The first use of US-made 155mm M109 self-propelled track systems by the Israeli army was in the 1973 Yom Kippur War against Egyptian forces (they were subsequently involved in the 1982 and 2006 Lebanon wars). With a stockpile of M110 203mm systems, the Army quickly recognized the importance of mobile long-range artillery against a variety of target types on the modern battlefield, and has used these systems efficiently in the conflicts that have plagued the country ever since.
In 1978, Israeli industry delivered the first domestically produced Main Battle Tank (MBT) to the Israel Defense Forces with the "Merkava" ("Combat Vehicle"), and to date, thousands of progressively improved battlefield forms have been built (Mk I to Mk IV) and special vehicles, rely on the core Merkava framework. A Merkava product that was not implemented in production became Soltam's "Sholef" ("Slammer").
Work on this Merkava branch was carried out mostly from 1984 to 1985, although the program had its roots back in the 1970s. Based on the Merkava chassis and its proven running gear, the vehicle is a 155mm armed self-propelled howitzer (SPH) with a movable turret that carries the primary armament.
In many ways, the Sholef mimics the American M109 series in form and battlefield function.
The Sholef is built on an existing chassis from the outgoing Merkava Mk I stock, with an autoloader (one less crew - the US M109 uses six), GPS and a digital fire control system (FCS) to ensure this Allows "shooting on the go". The end result was a 45 ton system with a brand new welded steel turret superstructure installed aft of the Merkava hull. The power unit is on the front right and the driver is on the front left (the original Merkava had positioned the engine at the front of the vehicle, unlike what was seen in Western and Russian tank designs).
The huge long-barreled gun visibly overhangs the bow, so a collapsible A-frame support was fitted to the bow to support/lock the weapon during transport. The gun is equipped with a large muzzle brake with multiple baffles to dampen recoil to some extent.
Like the Merkava's undercarriage, the Sholef has six twin-tire wheels on one side of the hull. The drive sprocket remains at the front and the chain idler remains at the rear. A single track deflection roller is provided to handle the upper track run.
The interior of the vehicle contains space for 75 155mm projectiles and can mount a machine gun on top of the turret for localized air defense (AA) or anti-infantry defense as required. Standardized equipment includes a complete Nuclear Biochemical (NBC) Protection Kit, Inertial Navigation System (INS) and LCD interface.
Where possible, built-in autonomy to optimize vehicle and crew operational capabilities, even beyond expected standards.
Despite much work on the Sholef program, the IDF ultimately decided against it, preferring a modernized version of America's Vietnam War-era M109. Only two Sholef prototypes remain.
- fire support/attack/damage
12.20 ft (3.72 m)
11.48 ft (3.5 m)
50 tons (45,000 kg; 99,208 lbs)
311 miles (500 km)
for everyone else in our database)
1 x 155mm main gun
1 x 7.62mm anti-aircraft (AA) machine gun on top of turret
Sholef - base series name