|Product type:||Armoured Vehicles|
The L33 (the length of the barrel in calibres) 155 mm self-propelled gun-howitzer was developed in the late 1960s by Soltam Systems Limited. It is basically a Sherman M4A3E8 tank chassis, originally designed and built during the Second World War, fitted with a Cummins diesel engine, a new all-welded steel superstructure and a Soltam Systems 155 mm M-68 gun-howitzer taken from the Soltam Systems 155 mm towed system.
Production of the L33 (which has also been referred to as the 155 mm M68 self-propelled gun commenced just after the 1967 war and it was used operationally for the first time during the 1973 Middle East conflict.
No production figures for the Soltam Systems L33 155 mm self-propelled gun-howitzer have been released. It is estimated that between 150 and 200 units were built.
SIBAT, Foreign Defence Assistance and Defence Export, Land Sales Division, at the Israel Ministry of Defence, is now offering quantities of the L33 systems for sale with the standard Soltam Systems 155 mm/33 calibre barrel or fitted with a new 155 mm/39 calibre barrel. As far as it is known, there have been no export sales of the L33 with a 155 mm/39 calibre barrel.
The driver is seated at the front of the hull on the left side and has a bulletproof windscreen to the front and sides and a single-piece hatch cover that opens to the rear over the driver. The commander is seated to the rear and above the driver's position and has a windscreen to the front and sides and a single-piece hatch cover. The anti-aircraft gunner's position is at the front of the hull on the right side. A 7.62 mm (0.30) machine gun is pintle-mounted on the forward part of the cupola which can be traversed through a full 360° and has a two-piece hatch cover that opens either side. The crew enter and leave the vehicle by a single door in each side of the hull that opens to the rear. At the rear of the hull are two large doors for 155 mm ammunition resupply.
The US supplied Cummins VT 8-460-Bi diesel engine is under the gun compartment at the rear of the hull. Power is transferred to the manual transmission in the nose of the vehicle by a two-part propeller shaft. The controlled differential transmits engine power to the final drive unit and also contains a brake system for steering and stopping the vehicle. The suspension each side consists of three two-wheeled bogies, three track-return rollers, the idler at the rear and the drive sprocket at the front.
The Soltam Systems 155 mm M-68 gun-howitzer is mounted in the forward part of the superstructure and has an elevation of +52°, a depression of -3° and a total traverse of 60°. Both elevation and traverse are manual. The weapon has a monobloc barrel and incorporates a horizontal sliding semi-automatic breech block. Mounted on the cradle are the hydropneumatic recuperator, a variable hydraulic damper that varies as a function of elevation (for example 800 mm at 52° elevation and 1,100 mm at 0° elevation) and a pneumatic rammer which permits loading of the gun at all angles of elevation. The barrel has a single-baffle muzzle brake, a bore evacuator and a travelling lock.
The L33 has a panoramic telescope for indirect fire engagements and a telescope for direct fire.
Ammunition is separate loading with obturation achieved by self-sealing obturator discs. Firing is accomplished by a cartridge primer inserted into the breech block and fired by a trip action mechanism. The 155 mm HE M107 projectile weighs 43.7 kg, has a maximum muzzle velocity of 725 m/s and a maximum range of 20,000 m. The following propelling charges are used: M1A2 zone 3 (muzzle velocity 284 m/s), M1A2 zone 4 (muzzle velocity 326 m/s), M1A2 zone 5 (muzzle velocity 390 m/s), M9A2 zone 6 (muzzle velocity 468 m/s), M9A2 zone 7 (muzzle velocity 562 m/s), M9A2 zone 8 (muzzle velocity 647 m/s) and M9A2 zone 9 (muzzle velocity 725 m/s). The M-68 system fires all NATO 155 mm projectiles including illuminating and smoke. Of the 60 rounds of 155 mm ammunition carried, 16 are for ready use.
This self-propelled howitzer is also marketed with a 155 mm/39 calibre barrel that increases the range to 24,000 m using conventional ammunition or 30,000 m with a base bleed projectile. This is called the L39 but as of late 2006 had not entered production or service.
An earlier 155 mm self-propelled howitzer was the M-50 which was essentially a modified Sherman tank chassis with the French Giat Industries 155 mm M-50 howitzer mounted in an open compartment at the rear. This is no longer in front-line service with the Israel Defence Force but it is believed that up to 50 systems may be held in reserve. Full details were given in Jane's Armour and Artillery 1994-95.
This was developed to the prototype stage and is based on a modified Merkava MBT chassis. Prototypes were built and tested but it never entered production.
Details of the Soltam Systems Rascal lightweight tracked self-propelled artillery system were given in Jane's Armour and Artillery 2000-2001. This never entered production and is no longer being marketed.
This is based on a modified Sherman chassis and is covered in detail in a separate entry. This is only used by the Israel Defence Force.