The Authority for Research and Development of Weapons in the Defense Ministry has developed a robot snake fitted with video and audio equipment that advances on the ground into enemy positions for intelligence collection. It can be used for special forces stealth operations, for crawling through Hamas tunnels or into Hizbullah bunkers. In addition, it could be used for locating survivors inside collapsed buildings after natural disasters or terror attacks.

The six-foot long snake can also be fitted with explosives and detonated inside enemy positions -- a capability dubbed as 'suicide.' The snake is currently in the prototype stage of development and has no price tag yet, but the Defense Ministry plans to begin production on a large scale soon.

According to a report on Channel 2, the snake can crawl into enemy positions through sewage pipes, under buildings and through forests. It is operated by one person with a laptop computer.

Prototype snake in action. Bottom pictures show snake's operator. (Screenshots: Channel 2)

Other new weapons are already being supplied to the IDF, and are expected to be popular in upcoming weapons exhibits. Tanks in one of the IDF’s armored regiments will soon receive new shells, called Kalanit, for a week of experimental use. The new shells, known as an APAM (Anti Personnel Anti Materiel) shells, are planned to become operational in 2010, when they will go into use in Merkava 3 and Merkava 4 tanks.

Fitted for 120 mm. guns, the Kalanit APAM is primarily intended for use against anti-tank squads that hide behind obstacles and are thus hard to hit using regular munitions. Unlike regular shells, which have a flat trajectory, the Kalanit is not fired directly at the enemy target but rather at a point in the air directly above it. According to the IDF website, it then stops in mid-air and releases six disc-shaped charges, or submunitions, at different intervals. The shrapnel from these charges covers a very wide and long kill zone and is effective against scattered targets as well as concentrated ones.

Merkava fires Kalanit (Israel news photo: IDF website. For full sized photo click here).

Restoring the tank's edge

According to the Kalanit’s developers, Israel Military Industries (IMI), “the APAM round restores the historical advantage to the tank in the modern battlefield. The enemy infantry is no longer protected. This confrontation ability is maintained at all the relevant ranges for tanks, with extremely high hit and kill probability.”

The Kalanit (Hebrew for the anemone flower) is a development of the Rakefet (Hebrew for cyclamen plant) shell, which has been in use in the Armored Corps for several years and has a 105 mm. diameter. When using the less advanced Rakefet, the crewmen need to enter the target data into the shell before placing it inside the chamber. Unlike the Rakefet, however, the Kalanit receives its target data when it is already inside the gun’s chamber. The tank crew needs only to mark the target with a press of a button and fire the shell, which will do all the rest automatically.

The Hetz-Dorban (top right) on a Namer (Israel news photo: IDF website).

These unique features of the Kalanit make it possible for the tank crew to carry it inside the gun chamber and fire it immediately upon spotting a target. In addition, the shell’s assignment can be changed when it is already inside the chamber.

Bunker buster

The shell has four settings, for different types of targets. Besides being effective against infantry and anti-tank units, it can also be used against buildings, bunkers, armored personnel carriers and even helicopters. For a concentrated high explosive blast, all six submunitions can be set to go off simultaneously. 

Two other systems which the IDF is phasing in to reduce the vulnerability of armored vehicles to anti-tank fire are Rafael’s experimental Windbreaker (Me’il Ruach) active defense system for tanks and IMI’s Hetz-Dorban system for ‘Namer’ Merkava-APCs, still in development phases.

The Hetz-Dorban fires an interceptor element at an incoming missile. The interceptor explodes near the missile, damaging it and causing it to veer off course.