The Israelis have finally allowed details of one of their weapon systems to become public. Let’s take a look.
To understand the weapon system, we need to go back to the Yom Kippur War in 1973. During that war, the Israelis were fighting (and mostly losing, though it worked out ok in the end) a war on two fronts: against Egypt in the South and Syria in the north. There were considerable fears that the two Arab armies, with their new Soviet hardware, would overrun the Israelis.
While the Israelis got plenty of support from the Americans, they were also deeply aware of how fickle allies could be. France and Britain had abandoned Israel after the Six-Day war in 1967. So Israel decided to do a lot of indigenous work. You can always rely on yourself. One such bit was the development of an indigenously produced tank, the famed Merkava.
But, what to do with the old tanks? They’re not suitable for frontline service, but throwing them out would be wasteful. And, more anti-tank firepower was needed. The Israelis had already put quite a bit of effort into upgrading their outmoded M48 and M60 tanks. These were called the Magach series, but eventually the Soviet tanks were too good.
There’s a long history of converting old tank chassis into support vehicles. The Germans did this in the Second World War, making the well-regarded StuG III off of surplus PzKpfW III hulls. The Israelis went a similar direction with their old Magachs. Time had marched on, though, and the Israelis installed Spike-NLOS ATGMs instead of a gun. The result is called Pereh, which is probably a terrible transliteration. It means Onager in Hebrew.
Let’s talk about the missile: Spike-NLOS. These are big, long-ranged missiles. They’ve been around since the 80s, so quite a bit longer than the small Spike that’s a Javelin competitor. They’ve got a range of about 25 km, and weigh in at 70 kg or so. Spike is, uh, well, I would say SACLOS, but the wireless datalink doesn’t require line of sight to work. So, SACLOS-like, I guess. You can also provide midcourse updates via the wireless datalink, or even program target coordinates for the missile to hit. Maybe we should call it SACLOS++ or SACLOS# guidance. Bad programmer jokes aside, the Pereh carries twelve of them.
Structurally, the Pereh is rather interesting. The Israelis went to great lengths to disguise it as a tank. It has a dummy turret, complete with dummy gun, built around the box launcher for the Spike missiles. The box launcher retracts into the turret bustle, and the antenna can fold down. The turret has a pretty serious looking array of explosive reactive armor on it. Remember, the Israelis came up with this stuff first, and they’re pretty good at making it. It would not surprise me if the Pereh kept a bunch of the turret armor of the parent M48/M60/Magach.
So what are the uses? Well, the enemy will see a second-line tank, sitting in the second line, just where they would expect to find it. But from there the Spike missiles can still reduce an approaching tank assault force. The Spike missiles can also be used as precision, short-range artillery against fixed positions, and the IDF has used the Pereh this way to great effect in conflicts in Lebanon. So it’s got shades of the classic M18 Hellcat tank destroyer, but also the StuG III assault gun. And all that ERA will make it more resistant to enemy rockets and ATGMs that might come after it.
We think these are great. And Borgundy would like them too. I wonder if we have any M60s lying around.