Israeli artillery troops practicing firing missiles in the desert, August 2, 2011.
Israeli artillery troops practicing firing missiles in the desert, August 2, 2011. Photo by Ilan Assayag
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The Israel Defense Forces' Artillery Corps unveiled Monday for the first time the Tamuz, a missile capable of striking targets 25 kilometers away. The Tamuz is equipped with an electro-optic sensor that allows the team operating the missile to monitor the target during the projectile's flight and guide it accurately all the way to the point of impact.

The Tamuz has in fact been in operation since the early 1980s, but only recently was it decided to officially release information about its existence, in part because of its extensive use during the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip.

Along with Tamuz, the Artillery Corps also unveiled the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs ) that are a part of its arsenal.

The IDF decided to develop the Tamuz, at the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems plant, as part of the lessons drawn from the Agranat Commission of Inquiry into the Yom Kippur War. The commission concluded that the IDF should develop missiles against tanks and other armored targets.

As the threat profile facing the IDF shifted away from the likelihood of war against regular armies, so too was the Tamuz adjusted to function against other types of targets, such as Hezbollah outposts in southern Lebanon and Palestinian Qassam rocket teams in the Gaza Strip. The changes made include the use of a smaller warhead, which is more suited for limited targets such as a group of militants firing Qassam rockets, and with limited collateral damage in human lives and property.

During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the Tamuz saw extensive action, with some 600 missiles of the type having been fired, mostly in support of ground forces. Even though the strikes were accurate, in the lessons learned after the war, it was decided that in at least half of the cases there was no operational justification for the use of this accurate but expensive missile.

The cost of every Tamuz amounts to some NIS 500,000; in other words, their use in the Second Lebanon War cost NIS 300 million.

The advantages offered by the Tamuz, compared to precision weapons fired from the air, is that it is readily available to its crews, who operate it from armored carriers that are deployed in the field and assigned to combat divisions.

In order to target the missile, the units operating them receive data from various sources, including observers, scouts, intelligence, aircraft, helicopters and UAVs.

The Artillery Corps revealed yesterday that it is using large UAVs, Hermes 450, which are made by Elbit, in order to guide fire-support missions on the ground, and to identify enemy threats. The artillery units jointly operate the UAVs with air force units.

Foreign news sources have reported that the Hermes 450 is equipped with precision missiles and that these are used to carry out targeted assassinations and strike at Qassam firing militants.

In addition, the Artillery Corps uses a tactical UAV, the Sky Rider, which provides real-time data to battalion commanders. Another UAV is planned for use by brigade commanders.