The IDF has unveiled a smart weapon that has been introduced into the campaign in the Gaza Strip and has already destroyed rocket launching positions of Hamas terrorist. The weapon is a 120 mm mortar bomb, Iron Sting (literally Steel Sting in Hebrew), which uses laser guidance or a satellite navigation system to home in on a defined target, making it more accurate and more lethal than a conventional mortar bomb.
Commanders of the Maglan reconnaissance unit said that in collaboration with the Israel Air Force they had thwarted dozens of terrorist attacks since the start of the war using various means, one of which was the precision mortar shell that had been brought into service, firstly in the Gaza Strip last week and after a few days on the Lebanon border as well.
Iron Sting is not a new weapon. It became operational with the IDF in Operation Guardian of the Walls two years ago, but this is the first time that the IDF has publicly demonstrated its capabilities on the battlefield. More units will be equipped with the smart mortar bombs in the coming months. Eventually, all mortar teams in infantry and armored units will use them.
The weapon was developed under the direction of the Directorate of Defense R&D in the Ministry of Defense and the Weapons Department in the IDF’s Ground Forces by Elbit Systems (which calls the weapon "Iron Sting") together with Rehovot-based Shilat Optronics, which is responsible for the homing head, and Israel Aerospace Industries, which is responsible for the navigation component.
Mortar bombs are a form of artillery munition that is fired with a very steep trajectory, which means that it hits without warning, and that can cause substantial damage within a radius of tens of meters.
The smart mortar bomb is a little longer and heavier than a conventional one. After it is fired, it extends small wings that enable it to maneuver to its target. At its front end it has a homing head that receives a laser signal enables the weapon to hit its target precisely, and a kind of miniature computer with which it can be determined whether the bomb will explode in the air, and a GPS location can be set. The back end is a standard shell.
As far as is known, there is no other army that has mortar bombs with a double homing system. Steel Sting is the only mortar bomb that can be guided using both laser guidance and GPS positioning through the input of a location or coordinates by troops in the field.
In cloudy or hazy conditions, when laser beams do not work well, the GPS system can serve as backup, and vice versa if there are disruptions to the GPS network. This degree of sophistication meant that development of the weapon took along time - about a decade.
The weapon is fairly cheap. The cost of each bomb is in the tens of thousands of shekels. The IDF compares this not with "stupid" mortar bombs, but with guided rockets for urban combat such as the "Gil" and the "Tamuz" weapons, which, according to foreign sources, cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
A disadvantage of Iron Sting is that it takes about fifteen seconds longer than a regular mortar bomb to fire. From receiving details of the target to hitting it takes up to sixty seconds. The operator connects a special cable to the bomb to input the target details, and only after the cable has been detached can the bomb be inserted into the mortar for firing. It is expected that this process will be shortened in the future.
The system will pay an important role in the campaign in the Gaza Strip. It gives the IDF an advantage in warfare in a crowded urban area. Iron Sting can hit a group of terrorists or a vehicle accurately, and even be fired through a window with precision and thus avoid harm to non-combatants. It is not however a strategic weapon. All in all, it allows surgical strikes where until now less accurate statistical weaponry has been used, such as artillery shells. This can be effective against terrorists hiding in buildings. Nevertheless, in the context of a broad offensive, it is not a substitute for traditional artillery cover.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 24, 2023.
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