Sholef The Sholef (Hebrew for "Slammer", which is slang in that language for "Gunfighter") was an Israeli Self-Propelled Howitzer prototype, built on the chassis of the Merkava Mk.III. Development of this artillery system commenced back in the 1970s. The project was considered of high national priority and incorporated the newest technological developments. Two prototypes of this vehicle were unveiled in 1984 and 1986, respectively, but it was not selected for production. Instead the Israeli Defense Forced selected upgraded version of American M109 howitzer.
The Sholef's chassis, aside from a few minor modifications, is identical to that of the Merkava Mk.III. The glacis plate is unchanged, except for the addition of a support bracket for the gun tube, which is folded down when not in use. As such, the Sholef and Merkava series share a large percentage of common components. The front-left side of the chassis has a prominent exhaust louver, along with a much smaller port just in front of it; the exact function of this port is uncertain, though the soot seen around it in photos of the Sholef suggests it may be a new or additional exhaust port, or perhaps an outlet for a smoke generator.
The Sholef can be ready to fire only 15 seconds after coming to a complete stop, and fire three projectiles in only 15 seconds. It is also compatible with standard NATO 155mm ammunition, and a total of 75 projectiles can be stowed in one Sholef, 60 of which are ready for combat.
The Sholef's 155mm/52 gun is an original design created by Soltam, though it bears a resemblance to South Africa's G5 Howitzer. It has a fume extractor and muzzle brake, and is kept stationary by a travel lock while the vehicle is on the move. This gun has a maximum rate of fire of 9 rounds/min, and a range in excess of 40 000 m when firing an ERFB-BB round. Though loaded automatically, the gun may be cycled and fire manually if the need arises. While the gun is normally carried by a travel lock as with most other self-propelled howitzers while the Sholef is on the move, the weapon is stabilized and can actually be used for direct-fire while the vehicle is moving, giving it much greater self-defense capability than most other vehicles of its type.
A crew of 4 is required to fully-operate the Sholef. Air conditioning and heating for the crew are provided, as is a ration heater.
The hull has the same ballistic protection as the Merkava Mk.III. The armor on the turret is sufficient to defeat small arms fire, shell splinters, blast overpressure, and most heavy machine gun rounds. The armor is augmented by spall liners, and the same overpressure NBC system as the Merkava Mk.III is fitted. There is also a back-up collective NBC system.
The running gear consists of 6 unevenly-spaced rubber-tired roadwheels on each side, and 5 return rollers, the second from the rear of which is noticeably larger than the others. The drive sprocket is forward, and the conspicuously-spoked idler is rear. These may be partially-obscured by track skirts, of which the Merkava Mk.III has 10 panels, with a wavering underside, and little coverage of the sprocket or idler.
The unit cost of the Sholef is unknown, but it is presumably no longer offered for sale.